You renewed your passport, you booked your flight, and you made your packing list. But have you talked to your doctor? Planning for international travel requires a lot of thought and preparation, and it can be easy to overlook details in the process. Staying healthy and safe from disease while abroad is a significant aspect of travel that should not be overlooked, however. Make sure that you’ve received all of the appropriate vaccinations for international travel.
Even if you’re up to date on all of your routine vaccinations, you may not have the proper vaccinations for international travel.Getting ready for a trip abroad? Talk to your doctor 4-6 weeks before international travel to make sure that you have the appropriate vaccinations. Click To Tweet
Why do you need vaccinations for international travel?
You may be exposed to different health issues abroad that you don’t have to worry about in the United States. Different parts of the world present different health risks. Vector-borne diseases (illnesses transmitted by parasites such as fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, flies, etc.), contaminated drinking water, and viruses or bacteria that you aren’t accustomed to are just a few of these risks.
Vaccines protect you from disease and illness. Vaccination all but eliminated polio, rubella, and measles in the United States (although there has been a recent uptick in measles cases). Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Vaccination remains the most effective way to protect families and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases. You can’t contract a disease from a vaccine; they’re safe and effective.
Receiving the appropriate vaccinations for international travel protects you and it helps prevent the spread of disease to other countries.
What vaccines do you need?
Make sure you current on your routine vaccinations:
- measles (MMR)
- mumps (MMR)
- rubella (MMR)
- chickenpox (varicella)
- hepatitis A
- hepatitis B
- polio (IPV)
- pneumococcal (PCV13)
- rotavirus (RV)
- tetanus (DTaP)
- diphtheria (DTaP)
- pertussis (DTaP)
The vaccinations you need for international travel depend on where you are going, and the nature of your trip. Visiting a remote village in Brazil presents different risks than staying at a resort in Rio de Janeiro. Some countries have recommended vaccinations, and some countries require certain vaccinations.
Your doctor can tell you the exact vaccines that you need.
Don’t wait until the last minute to meet with a healthcare professional. Casually telling your doctor about your trip to Africa next week may not give you enough time to prepare. It takes time for vaccines to start providing protection.
Meet with your doctor at least four to six weeks in advance. Don’t call the office for an appointment six weeks in advance, but schedule your appointment for six weeks in advance of your leaving date.
What you can do to stay healthy while traveling
Vaccines help prevent diseases, but there are additional things that you can do to help prevent illness:
- Do not drink contaminated water. Treat water to ensure that it is potable.
- Avoid raw, under cooked, or unwashed foods.
- Wear insect repellent that protects against disease carrying parasites in the region.
- Wash your hands often.
- Do not approach wild or domestic animals.
Talk to your doctor about your travel plans
Talk to your doctor before traveling to other countries. Your primary care physician can offer useful advice for staying healthy while traveling abroad, and inform you on the necessary vaccinations for international travel.
Martin Hannon, MD and Jody Francisco, APRN, with MANA Family Medicine in Pinnacle Hills, are certified in International Travel Medicine by the Arkansas Department of Health and provide recommended vaccinations for international travel.