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Must Have Travel Vaccines: Don't Leave Home Without Them

July 19, 2018
Published in: Infectious Disease

Doctor giving a vaccine to a patient in his arm

You've researched, planned, and packed your bags! You're heading off to experience new places, cultures, and adventures. While a passport and plane ticket will get you there, travel vaccines will keep you healthy while you're there. Getting the right travel vaccines can ensure you stay happy and healthy on your next vacation!

Vaccines expose your body to weakened parts of a disease. It may seem counterintuitive, but this process prompts your body to create antibodies to the disease. These antibodies will protect you if you're ever exposed to the full-strength disease. Other countries may have diseases not found in the United States, making travel vaccines necessary for international travel. In addition to self-protection, vaccines help prevent the spread of disease from country to country.

Which Travel Vaccines Are Right for You?

Young adult waiting at train stationWhen traveling outside of the U.S., you may need one or more of these common vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Meningococcal Disease
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis

It's important to consult your doctor about which travel vaccines to get. Vaccine recommendations may vary based on where you're going, what activities you're doing, and exposure to potential threats. Be prepared to answer the following questions when talking with your doctor about travel vaccines:

  • Where are you traveling? Will you be in urban or rural areas?
  • How long is your visit?
  • What season will it be where you're going?
  • How are you getting there (plane, boat, train, etc.)?
  • What are your lodging conditions going to be like?
  • What type of food do you anticipate eating?
  • What activities do you have planned during your trip?

The Nuts and Bolts of Travel Vaccines

More than likely you'll need to go to a travel clinic to receive the vaccines you need. Primary care doctors typically don't keep a comprehensive supply of travel vaccines in stock. You'll also need to schedule your vaccines 4 to 6 weeks prior to travel. Some vaccines take a while to work or have to be given in a series of shots over a certain period of time. Planning is key to make sure you're properly vaccinated in time for your trip. You can locate a travel clinic near you by visiting the Centers for Disease Control Travelers' Health website. This site also provides important travel notices, vaccine information by country, and a disease directory.

Don't Forget About Your Health History

If you're being treated for a current condition, take prescription medications, or have other health complications, you'll need to take extra care with travel vaccines. Some medicines decrease the effectiveness of vaccines. You'll need to consult your doctor about your current health situation as it relates to travel.

Common Sense is Good Sense

Practicing good hygiene, researching the country you're traveling to, and watching out for food and water contaminants go a long way in staying healthy. Carrying basic first aid supplies and treating wounds immediately can protect against infection. Bug sprays and anti-malaria meds are essential travel supplies in many countries. Be proactive and have a plan for staying healthy while you travel.

Travel is a fun, often life-changing way to expand your horizons. Including travel vaccines as part of your plans will ensure you remain safe. Break out the map, book the ticket, and set off into the sunset with confidence by being a proactive traveler!