Heading on a hot holiday? Looking forward to the beach and fancy drinks? If so, you may need a vaccination, depending on the area you’re traveling to. The truth is, foreign countries often face issues that you may not encounter at home. To reduce your risk, be aware and take the correct precautionary steps.
What Are Travel Vaccinations?
You may be hesitant to get vaccinated, simply because you don’t know what you’re being exposed to. Also known as immunizations, the shots you get before you travel, can significantly reduce your risk of health complications during and after your trip.
These vaccinations work by exposing your body to specific ‘germs’ that relate to specific diseases. Of course, you cannot get the disease itself from a vaccination because when injected with bacteria or a virus, the disease is essentially dead or so weak that it will not have any lasting effects.
Once exposed, your body works hard to create antibodies — proteins used by your immune system to protect you against various illnesses. That way, if you’re ever exposed to the illness, your body will be able to protect you. Being safe and effective, vaccines are highly recommended — even when they’re not required.
When Should You Get Vaccinated?
The answer to this question is not a simple one. There are a number of factors involved, including, your own personal vaccination history, the locations you’ll be traveling to, and current risks. To best protect yourself, you should ask your doctor or visit a travel medical clinic around 4-6 weeks before your travel date.
When you are vaccinated, it takes time for your body to naturally build up an immunity. Meaning, the sooner you seek the required vaccination(s), the better. Even if you’re leaving last-minute, it doesn’t hurt to check in regarding possible preventative measures or to see if any last-minute vaccines are available.
In terms of your location, travel vaccinations tend to be categorized into the following:
- Routine — These are standard immunizations that are recommended for both children and adults. These include immunizations, such as tetanus or measles. Although incidents are rare, it never hurts to protect yourself.
- Recommended — If you are traveling somewhere that is high risk, you should seek vaccinations. Also, this will help reduce the spread of diseases.
- Required — Based on International Health Regulations, the only required vaccination is for yellow fever, before traveling to specific sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
Although a vaccination may not be required, that does not mean that you should avoid it. Preventative measures always trump required treatment. In many cases, recommended vaccinations are meant to protect you from illnesses that are common in that area. This can also be based on what time of year you’re traveling, your age, health status, and more.
Overall, vaccinations are recommended on an individual basis, which is why you should personally inquire. When treated with a vaccine, you can prevent the following travel-related diseases:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid and paratyphoid
- Meningococcal disease
- Yellow fever
- Japanese encephalitis
If you currently take medications, such as blood pressure or diabetes medications, check with your doctor before getting immunized. This will help you avoid any complications due to potential interactions. When you do go see your doctor, have everything ready — your immunization history, your itinerary, and even your medical history.
At the end of the day, it’s up to whether or not you get vaccinated. Of course, basic hygiene will be very important. From food-borne to air-borne illnesses, always make sure you wash your hands before eating and always ensure the drinking water is safe.
When you’re in countries with insect-borne diseases, it’s imperative that you take precautionary measures. Wear repellent and proper clothing while in regions that carry a high risk of malaria. Nothing is more important than education, so just be aware of where you’re going, what the risks are, and what you can do to protect yourself.