When we plan trips and vacations, we always imagine the fun we will have, the new things we’ll experience, maybe even seeing friends and family again. We have the highest hopes for our journey. Falling ill is probably the furthest thing from our minds. And yet, there is a very real chance that you could contract a serious illness if you are unprepared. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, you can prepare yourself and your family before you travel.
Here’s everything you need to know about travel vaccines and medicine.
Which countries require travel vaccines?
A lot of them, actually. The United States Center for Disease Control recommends vaccines and medications before visiting African countries, Latin American countries, Asia, and India. To help make sense of this, we’ve made a table. There are several qualifiers when it comes to travel vaccines and medicines.
- Which country are you visiting?
- Which part of the country are you visiting?
- When are you visiting?
- What are you doing there?
For example, let’s say you plan on visiting Machu Picchu in Peru. Even though this is located in South America, you don’t necessarily need the full gambit of vaccines. The southern half of Peru, where Machu Picchu is located, is very arid and mountainous. In other words, no mosquitoes. You should still bring antibiotics like a Z-pack in case you get the dreadful Traveler’s Diarrhea. And it’s advisable to get the Hepatitis-A vaccine since you’ll be eating food that may be contaminated. (And yes, even restaurant food can be contaminated.) However, if you’re only visiting Machu Picchu, you won’t need things like yellow fever or typhoid vaccinations.
Using that same example: let’s say you want to visit Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Amazon to the north. Now you’ll need more vaccines because the region is different.
Certain activities can also affect which travel vaccines you’ll need. For instance, if you know you’re going to have contact with animals, it’s highly recommended you get a rabies vaccine.
Where do you get travel vaccines and medications?
There are several options. Firstly, there is your doctor. They can provide you with information on where you’re going and which vaccines, if any, you may need.
Secondly, there are places known as travel clinics. Places like Passport Health that specialize in providing vaccinations, medicine, and education for travelers.
Thirdly, every county in the US should have a Health Department. You can contact them regarding travel vaccines, if they provide them, and how much they will cost.
Which diseases do travel vaccines prevent?
The short answer: most serious conditions. While a vaccine for Zika is still in the works, most major diseases you could contract whilst traveling are preventable.
So here’s a breakdown of which diseases affect Africa, Latin America, the Philippines, and India. Remember: most vaccines have qualifiers, so talk to your doctor about which ones are right for you.
All of these can be prevented through vaccines. For information on how these diseases are contracted and what their symptoms are, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s site. (Cholera sounds particularly nasty. >.< )
You should have received vaccinations for a whole host of diseases as an infant in the US. They include MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chicken pox, and polio. These are highly recommended – no matter the destination.
Which travel vaccines do I need?
If you don’t see the country you’ve visiting below, please see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s site.
J.E. = Japanese Encephalitis
R.V. = Routine Vaccinations
- = Highly recommended
- = Recommended based on region of the country
- = Recommended based on time of the year
- = Recommended based on activities
Now that we’ve discussed vaccinations, let’s talk about the other side of the coin: travel meds. Obviously, if you have a condition, be sure to bring your medication. You may want to consider bringing a z-pack. These are cheap, and you can be purchase them at any pharmacy. You will need a prescription, however, so make sure to get one from your doctor or travel clinic.
You probably won’t need it, but trust us when we say that you will desperately want one if you get traveler’s diarrhea. The last thing you want is to go on a wild goose chase looking for medicine in a foreign country.
Final Word on Travel Vaccines
We realize that the thought of getting shots makes some people queasy. There’s good news! Some vaccines require only a small shot, often administered in the hip, which is less painful. Some shots do require multiple injections, for example the rabies vaccine, but the alternative is much worse. Lastly, some vaccines can actually be taken orally. Pills containing the typhoid virus can be taken instead of the dreaded shot. This can sometimes cause an upset stomach, but if you’re terrified of needles, this may be the option for you.