Planning to travel overseas in the next few months? You may want to think about travel vaccinations. Learn which shots you may need for which countries, and how to save money on them.
When I first began traveling on a regular basis 7 years ago, the topic of travel vaccinations and immunizations came up. Like many people, I was confused about which shots I needed. Where do I get them? How much do they cost?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you’re staying at a fancy resort or a backpacker hostel – if you’re in a foreign country, you’re putting yourself at risk for the diseases and infections that reside there.
Why do we wear seat belts? Because they save more lives than they take.
The same is true with vaccinations. The diseases they prevent kill millions around the world (or used to before vaccinations).
Once you’ve taken the proper precautions, you’ll feel much better about being adventurous and saying yes to any opportunities that present themselves while traveling. It’s preventative insurance for your health.
Travel Vaccinations & Shots
I know, I know – no one likes getting shots or even going to the doctor. But a twenty-minute appointment could prevent you from contracting really bad diseases, and maybe even save your life.
A number of factors go into determining whether or not you need a vaccination – some of them personal (depending on your health, or where you are from) many of them are more general.
As a result, necessary vaccinations can vary depending on your planned destinations. Let’s take a look at these factors and which vaccinations are recommended (or required) for your next trip.
Things To Consider
There are a few things to consider regarding your own health and situation. First, how is your immune system? If you have a disease or condition that weakens the immune system, speak with a doctor before getting a vaccine.
It’s important to make sure you’ve got your body up to par for the trip!
Next, if you are pregnant or traveling with children, be sure that both you and they have any medical procedures and/or vaccines needed, and that the vaccines are safe for their age.
Check your personal vaccine history by talking to your doctor or health insurance provider (you may have had some of them when you were younger, like Hepatitis A). Just to avoid any confusion, this is often referred to in official medical circles as your Immunization Records.
Finally, I’ve shared some general guidelines below, but for more detailed information, please visit the official CDC Traveler’s Health Site to learn exactly which travel vaccinations are recommended for each country.
Basic Routine Vaccinations
Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread through food and water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Some sources include fruits & vegetables that were improperly handled, bad ice, and shellfish pulled from contaminated water. It can also be spread through sex. Symptoms are similar to the flu. There is no cure.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease spread through blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. Sources include unprotected sex, using contaminated needles, and sharing a razor/toothbrush with an infected person. Symptoms are often mild, so you may not realize you have it. Left untreated it can damage your liver.
TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, And Pertussis)
Tetanus is bacteria found in the soil and animal excrement. If it enters a wound, it creates a deadly toxin called tetanospasmin. Symptoms include nerve spasms and contractions that spread from the face to the arms and legs, and can affect the ability to breathe. Untreated, tetanus is often fatal. The vaccine is sometimes mixed with vaccines for Diphtheria & Pertussis, two more bacterial diseases.
The Influenza virus, aka “the flu” spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. It often only lasts a few days, but can still ruin a trip. Symptoms include high fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, headache, and coughing.
Recommended For Many Countries
Typhoid fever, or typhoid, is a bacterial infection that spreads through feces contaminated food or water. It affects 21.5 million people worldwide, with a 10% fatality rate. Most common symptoms include fever, anorexia, abdominal discomfort and headaches.
Recommended For Some Countries
There are four different strains of Malaria. All are transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. Malaria is characterized by fever and flu-like symptoms, including chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. Malaria can cause kidney failure, coma and death.
Rabies is a viral disease contracted by the bite of an animal, usually raccoons, bats, dogs, skunks, or foxes. It affects the central nervous system and brain, leading to death if untreated. It starts with flu-like symptoms, progressing to insomnia, confusion, partial paralysis, and hallucinations. The vaccine does not prevent contracting rabies, it just makes treating it far easier.
Cholera is a diarrhea illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. It kills over 100,000 people every year. Cholera is spread by consuming water or food contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Symptoms can be mild, but severe cases include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps.
Polio is a viral disease transmitted by fecal matter or saliva from an infected person. It can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and death. Before a vaccine was available, infection was common worldwide. In the United States, most people receive the initial vaccine as children. However an additional booster shot is recommended for adult travelers going to certain countries.
There are a few different forms of Meningitis. Basically, it’s a bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. It spreads from person to person via coughing, kissing, or eating contaminated food. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, and stiff neck. Some countries in Africa & the Middle East have regular outbreaks.
Required For Some Countries
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease with a high mortality rate, which is why some countries require vaccination if you recently traveled to parts of South American or Africa. Symptoms of yellow fever include: fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, and abdominal pain. Severe cases include hepatitis, hemorrhagic fever, and possible death.
When Should You Get Vaccinated?
Obviously you need any shots that are REQUIRED for entry taken care of before you leave. That said, the earlier the better, especially if follow-up rounds may be needed.
Because some vaccines require a few shots spread out over a few months.
Some travel shots can take about a week to fully protect your system, so generally it’s recommended to have your travel vaccines completed a few weeks before your trip. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns on timing.
Your Yellow Immunization Card
Once you receive your travel vaccinations, ask the doctor for a yellow immunization card, which lists all your vaccination details.
Keep this with your passport, and update it with any new shots you get, because immigration officials in some countries will want to see it. Especially as proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.