Before you take off to for that relaxing and well-deserved vacation, had you taken care of your immunizations yet? If you are planning to travel, you may want to take precautions. Click on the continent you are planning to visit and see what you can do to stay healthy and safe.
Africa | Asia | Australia | Europe | North America | South America
(For other travel areas, go to the Centers for Disease Control.)
Traveling outside of your country can often increase your chances of getting sick because it takes time for your body to adjust to the water, food and air of another country. Water in developing countries can contain viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause upset stomachs and diarrhea, so it is advised to drink only from bottled or purified water. You can also brush your teeth with the bottled water too. If you have to use tap water, boil it first or use iodine tablets. If you are traveling out of the country, you might also need vaccinations or preventative medicines. The vaccinations you need will depend on the country you are visiting, the time of year, your age, overall health status and previous immunizations. See your doctor four to six weeks before your trip because most vaccines take time to become effective.
Before You Go:
Plan ahead. Make an appointment to get your vaccinations at least 6 weeks prior to your departure. Most vaccines need at least 6 weeks to be fully effective. Get dental, medical, and eye checkups before you leave to make sure you are healthy. Have copies of any prescriptions that you require on a daily basis (e.g., birth control pills, hypertension medications, etc.). Bring a bag with some basic medicines (e.g., pain/fever reducer, anti-diarrheal, antihistamines, etc.) and a first aid kit. If you wear glasses, get a copy of your eye prescription in case you lose your glasses. Find out what your health insurance covers for overseas medical care, and if necessary, purchase traveler’s health insurance before leaving. Read about safety and health concerns in the region. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about any disease outbreaks and other health tips such as recommended vaccines.
This is a list of common vaccinations needed for popular traveling destinations. Even if you received some of these vaccinations as a child, the vaccine may have worn off. Because of this, you should get booster shots. Research which countries require specific vaccines before travelling and receive those well in advance (at least 4-6 weeks prior).
Hepatitis A or hepatitis A immune globulin Hepatitis B Influenza (the flu) Japanese encephalitis Measles-mumps-rubella Meningococcal meningitis Pneumococcal Polio Rabies Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids Typhoid fever Varicella (chickenpox) Yellow fever
First Aid Items to Pack:
Prescription medicines in original containers. Medicine for diarrhea and upset stomach. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for an antibiotic you can take in case you get traveler's diarrhea. Cough and cold medicines. Pain and fever reducing medicines, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin. Decongestants and antihistamines for allergies (non-drowsy preferably) Antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, hydrocortisone cream, moleskin for blisters, and sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and lip balm. Medicine for motion sickness, such as dimenhydrinate (e.g., Dramamine). The prescription medicines promethazine and acetazolamide may help prevent nausea and altitude sickness. Motion sickness bands are a good alternative. Scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, pocket knife, thermometer and a mirror. Hand wipes and hand sanitizers. If you wear contacts, bring your glasses. A back up pair of glasses is also recommended. Bring a copy of the prescription as well in case you lose your glasses and need to get another pair.
If traveling in a country where there is a high risk of getting traveler’s diarrhea, take great care in what you eat. Steaming hot, well-cooked food is usually the safest. Do not buy food from street vendors and avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw or uncooked seafood. Drink water from commercially-sealed bottles or drink carbonated beverages. Avoid ice and use bottled water when you brush your teeth. If you are going to a country with an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases, protect yourself against insects with repellents that contain DEET (DEET’s chemical name is N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Wear permethrin-coated clothing and use bed nets while you sleep. If you're going to a country with a risk of malaria, your doctor may prescribe preventive medications. Remember to take your malaria medicine before you leave on your trip, during your trip, and 4 weeks after your trip. Avoid swimming and other water activities in freshwater lakes and streams. Schistosomiasis (also called bilharziasis) is a disease you might be exposed to in some African streams and lakes. Try to avoid taking overcrowded transportation. Try not to ride in vehicles without safety belts and wear a helmet if you'll be riding on a motorcycle. It is safest to avoid driving at night or in unfamiliar areas without local help and directions.
National Library of Medicine (2011). Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/travelershealth.html
Family Doctor. (2011). Retrieved from http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/travel/international-travel-tips-for-staying-healthy.printerview.all.html