Add Shots to International Travel Plans
People who travel within the United States are accustomed to things like packing and reservations. International travelers, however, have a longer pre-travel to-do list because they have to consider immunizations.
“Often people aren’t aware that they need to be concerned with illnesses that we don’t have here in the United States,” said Patsi Albright, a nurse practitioner at the Penn State Hershey Travel Clinic.
For example, Albright reminds people that while salmonella and typhoid are not prevalent in the United States, they are common in other countries. Additionally, which vaccinations are required by law varies from country to country – and these requirements often change.
Albright offers some advice to consider when planning a trip:
Get your immunizations up-to-date
Talk with your primary care provider (PCP) to check if you are up-to-date with routine immunizations. Insurance companies do not generally pay for shots required for travel, but will cover them for hepatitis A, tetanus and other standard inoculations.
Albright also said most inoculations take two weeks to take effect and suggests getting those four to six weeks prior to travel.
Consider your route
When venturing abroad, travelers need to consider not only their final destination, but also any layovers along the way. Albright said even if you never leave the plane or airport, stopping in some countries requires certain vaccinations.
Watch what you eat
Albright recommends avoiding food from street vendors, a common source of illness. Also, do not accept opened bottled water as it may be filled with tap water. Traveler’s diarrhea is quite common and mostly caused by bacteria. Albright often prescribes antibiotics for clients to take with them in case they develop severe diarrhea.
Take what you need
Travelers should take all regular medications and prescriptions with them, and keep medications in the original packaging.
Carry a brief medical history that includes those medication and any known health concerns. This is especially important for people with chronic health concerns. Diabetics may also need documentation stating they need to carry needles and syringes to administer insulin.
The CDC’s Traveler’s Health page allows users to enter their destination country and get information about recommended vaccines, current travel notices, healthy packing tips and more.
The World Health Organization’s travel page offers detailed information about traveler vaccinations, a page about food safety when traveling and an interactive world map showing areas of high risk for certain infectious diseases at http://apps.who.int/ithmap/.
Article by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.