Travelling abroad can be a great source of fun and excitement, but it can also expose you to various health risks if you are not properly vaccinated. While vaccinations are not mandatory, seeking professional medical advice prior to your trip is definitely advised.
Your doctor might recommend that you get a vaccination depending on:
• the advisories of the country you intend to visit;
• time or season of your travel (ex. spring usually triggers allergic rhinitis);
• the nature of the place you will be staying (i.e. urban or rural, underdeveloped or developed, etc.);
• the length of your stay;
• your current health condition;
• your age;
You should try to seek advice at least eight weeks before your trip, as this should give your doctor enough time to access if your body will positively react to the vaccine. Also, it can make sure that your existing vaccinations are still valid. Due to recent medical discoveries, more advanced polio and tetanus vaccines have been developed. So see if your doctor can arrange a booster shot of these more effective vaccines.
Some of the more common illnesses tourists get from travelling without proper vaccinations are influenza, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, German measles, cholera, typhoid fever and pneumonia. Vaccination against these illnesses is not necessarily required, except for yellow fever.
There are actually countries which require foreigners to present proof, like an “International Certification of Vaccination”, to prove that they have received a vaccination against yellow fever within the last ten years. This requirement is even more strictly imposed if you have gone to a country where there has been a yellow fever breakout. If you cannot present such proof, you will be denied entry until you have been properly quarantined or vaccinated.
Other Helpful Tips
• Bring your family’s vaccination record whenever you travel, especially to countries with vaccination advisories. The record will help clear possible questions about your vaccination history, as well as help authorities identify which vaccinations you may still need to get.
• Common causes of catching illnesses in foreign countries include drinking tap water, putting ice into drinks (you can never be sure if the water used in making the ice is safe for drinking), eating uncooked food (fruits and vegetables included) and consuming unpasteurized daily products.
• Many deadly diseases come from insect bites. Avoid areas which are very prone to insect habitation (lakes, rainforests, etc.); if these areas cannot be avoided, always use insect repellents. You can use lotions or patches containing DEET to repel insects. Mosquitoes and some other insects can still bite through fabric, so don’t just rely on your clothing or blankets. Don’t forget to pack a mosquito net if you intend to visit a highly mosquito-prone area.
• If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water and immediately seek for medical assistance, even if you have been vaccinated against rabies.