Of course, you are excited to be traveling on an important business trip, or to study or volunteer abroad, or to serve as a missionary or simply to have the vacation of a lifetime. Folks are traveling these days more than ever. Millions of Americans travel internationally every year. I was amazed to learn that the majority of them do not receive the pre-travel care and immunizations that they need. Most of them simply are not aware that they need to be protected. Many of them, unfortunately, learn some hard lessons that could have been avoided. If an illness or an accident strikes during your travels, then the trip you’ve planned for months or years may be ruined. Make sure that your trip will be memorable for the right reasons, not for malaria, hepatitis or any of a variety of critters who set up camp on your body. As soon as your itinerary is established, consult with a physician who is knowledgeable in travel medicine to minimize your risks and to keep you safe.
When you arrive at the doctor’s office, have the following information in hand.
Your vaccine history. Your primary care doctor may have these records. Or, your HR department at work or your student health service may have these records also. Many moms keep vaccine records that they used to fill out all of those school and camp forms. Even if your mom doesn’t have a clue when you received a tetanus shot or hepatitis vaccine, she’ll be glad to hear from you anyway. Your immunization history will be very helpful, but even without it, your doctor can offer you necessary travel shots and advice.
Your itinerary. Detail is important. It’s not enough to tell your doctor that you’re going to Kenya. Two travelers to the same country may not require the same vaccines or travel advice. Will you be scuba diving or mountain climbing? Will you be sleeping under the stars in the desert or enjoying the amenities of a premium hotel? Will you be traveling to rural areas? List all countries that you plan to visit with the appropriate dates of travel. Certain diseases are more common during different seasons which may affect your doctor’s advice.
Vaccinations are one of medicine’s great milestones. They have saved the lives of millions of people. All of us make sure that our kids receive the vaccines that their pediatricians recommend so they can avoid serious illness. Would we ever tell our child’s pediatrician to “pass on polio” or “skip the hepatitis vaccine”? Of course not. Yet, as traveling adults, why don’t most of us get vaccinated?
Find out more about important travel vaccine information.
Now, roll up your sleeve and get protected!