There's no point spending hours choosing your swimwear, beach bag and flip-flops if you barely think about the bugs and other health risks that could ruin your holiday - NHS Choices
image by: Travel Medicine and Vaccination Center
After planning your trip, telling your angry parents you’re leaving, and booking the flight, you might remember that you should check which vaccinations you need for where you’re going. Vaccinations for travel can be expensive and unnecessary so it’s important you do your research. I’ll help you.
I was vaccinated like crazy when I got into nursing school. I’ve been checked for TB like 50 times, and I’m still always relieved when it’s negative. When I travel I disregard many recommendations, but I’m going to share the basic immunizations that I have, the ones I chose not to get, and why. This is not my nursing recommendation (which is get them all); this is my practical backpacking opinion.
Vaccinations for Travel
I’m breaking this up into a few different categories. Reminder, I’m American, so this stuff is more specific to the US and may be different if you’re from another country. Always double-check with your doctor.
Vaccines you probably had as a child:
- Hepatitis B
You should follow up with your doctor to make sure you don’t need boosters of these. I actually called my pediatrician’s office to get a copy of my records because I needed them for school.
**For some countries booster timings are different, for example tetanus is 10 years in the US but here in India, for the same dosage, they say 3 years maximum.
Extra vaccines I got because I think they’re important:
- Gardasil (against HPV)
- Annual Flu shot (only while I was in the US)
Beyond those, the only vaccination I got specifically for travel:
You must have proof of this on your passport to get into Uganda. I really wanted to add information specific to countries that have special requirements for entry, but the list was entirely way too long.
You need to look up that information from your countries equivalent of the U.S. State Department, it’ll be the same place you go for travel advisories. In most instances, if you send off your passport to get a visa, and an extra vaccination is necessary, that will need to be included in your paperwork.
Others that are recommended for my travels so far I have not taken are:
- Malaria pills
- Japanese encephalitis
- Hepatitis A
Doctors are always really bummed/worried/confused when you don’t get these injections or prescriptions for preventative pills. You, as a responsible traveler, need to make the decision yourself. Some injections will cost you up to 800 bucks, no joke.
Other fun tips for your health while you travel
Some illnesses you can’t get unless there is an active outbreak in the area. Read up and see if you need to vaccinate (for example Japanese Encephalitis) before departure.
Pack a small medical kit. In case I end up sick due to not listening to doctors, I am luckily a nurse, and like all of you I know how to look up tropical illnesses online (I still didn’t self diagnose when I had Dengue). There are not yet vaccinations for dengue, just use your bug spray to prevent mosquito bites. I pack a tiny little medical kit with me.
As for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, I just wash fruit/veg with filtered water. The longer you are out of the country and immersed in another, your body will begin to adjust.
Use bottles and filtered water for drinking. I brush my teeth with the water everywhere I’ve been, but it’s pretty much common sense where to use bottles water for drinking. Even my pets drink filtered water.
Don’t panic! If you do get food poisoning and have become severely dehydrated, don’t jump to the worst conclusion. Head to the clinic for a few hours of IV fluids and you’ll probably be fine!
Don’t just brush off malaria. I’ve discussed in another post that I don’t take medication for malaria prevention, and that’s another one you’ll have to make a decision on.
Ultimately, you must decide which vaccines you need and don’t need. You have to decide what’s best for you and what’s in your budget. Even if I were a millionaire I don’t think I’d get any more vaccines unless the country forced me to.
For cheaper vaccination options, look into the countries you’re visiting. Injections are much cheaper where I am now, India, so I can easily get more vaccinations if another country denies me entrance without a particular one. So, on that note, remember when you travel it is an option to vaccinate in your destination at a less expensive cost.
Pretty much off topic, I want to add this interesting fact: when you fly into India they spray you down on the plane so you don’t bring pesticides and viruses into their country. But, when I fly back into the States from India, nobody sprays me down. India wins that one! and the other 5 countries that require it.
Source: Rachel Jones, Vaccinations for Travel, Hippie in Heels, November 2013.