Traveling abroad
November 8, 2019 | by Trong Tony Trinh MD, MPH

Your next overseas trip may have you logging a lot of miles. Make sure you don’t get grounded with an illness or disease that could be avoided.

In developed countries like the United States, it’s easy to forget that millions of people lost their lives or were left disabled by certain diseases before vaccines were developed. However, in developing countries —many of which are popular travel destinations—vaccines can be scarce and deadly or debilitating diseases still circulate readily.

Local and national outbreaks of measles this last year have been linked to international travel. These cases serve as reminders of how dangerous and swift the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases can be when our immune defenses become outdated.

Tips to stay healthy while traveling:

  • Pack a travel-kit with items such as sunscreen, medication, insect repellant, condoms, and first-aid supplies.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
  • Make safe food and drink decisions. To check on country specific details, download the CDC App, TravWell.
  • Avoid insect bites by wearing protective clothing or repellent.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and avoid walking barefoot.

Learn more about staying healthy while traveling abroad.

As you prepare for your next trip, it’s important to review your vaccination record as part of your pre-departure checklist. In addition to being up to date on routine vaccines you may need additional protection.

Types of vaccines that may be needed:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Meningococcus
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

Routine, required, recommended – what’s the difference?

In your research, you may come across several vaccine descriptions that sound similar. Knowing the difference can help you when talking with your provider about which vaccine may be best for your trip.

  • Routine – a vaccine for everyone in the United States depending on age and health history. There are routine vaccinations for kids and adults.
  • Required – a vaccine that is required to enter a country based on that country’s regulations. Currently yellow fever is the only vaccine that some countries may require although requirements can change at any time. A country’s requirement is different than the CDC’s recommendation to have a vaccine.
  • Recommended – a vaccine that is recommended to protect your health while traveling in a country. Recommended vaccines are not part of the routine vaccination schedule and are intended to help protect against travel-related illnesses.

How to Plan Vaccines for Your Trip

At least a month before your trip, talk with your doctor about which vaccinations are necessary and what side effects you can expect. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your provider about destination-specific options.

A travel medicine specialist can conduct personalized pre-travel risk assessment, consultation, and care for your unique medical history and travel itinerary. The Polyclinic’s Travel Center has board-certified physicians who can provide consultations and vaccinations as appropriate for you. To schedule a consultation, call 206-860-4447.

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