Why Travel Vaccinations are Important

Got a case of wanderlust? Know which shots are recommended before you head out.

Why Travel Vaccinations are ImportantAsk any globetrotter: the world is full of interesting people and places, but it’s also full of nasty bacteria and viruses. Fortifying yourself against infectious diseases is a lifelong process, especially if you like to travel.

To keep local infections from spreading, the World Health Organ­ization recommends that all travellers-domestic and international alike-be immunized against measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio. These shots are routine in most developed countries, but a vacation
is a good excuse to confirm you got them as a child.

Additional vaccinations may be in order, depending on the time of year, your destination, health, age and planned activities. With all of these factors to consider, your best bet is to visit a doctor or a travel clinic, ideally at least four to six weeks before departure (in case you require multiple vaccine doses or must build up immunity over time).

Last-minute travel plans are no excuse for skipping the consult: you can learn about potential risks and steps to take to avoid them, such as wearing insect repellent or eschewing tap water. And some vaccines can be effective right away: if someone gets the hepatitis A shot just before leaving, “in most cases it will prevent the disease even if the traveller is exposed immediately after arriving in their destination country,” says Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, a consultant for the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health Branch.

Another common disease-found in most parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America-is typhoid fever. Besides diarrhea and a rash, five per cent of patients experience intestinal bleeding. As a result, your doctor might recommend a shot or a pill if there’s a chance you’ll face questionable food or water. But typhoid vaccines aren’t foolproof: they could reduce your risk by as little as 50 per cent, so it’s important to watch what you eat and drink. Once your immune system is primed and your know­ledge is up to date, you can enjoy your trip-and peace of mind.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada