It’s easy to overlook your health when you’re caught up in the excitement of planning your next trip abroad. However it’s important to be aware of the viruses and infectious diseases that you may be exposed to when you travel, particularly when visiting those parts of the world with higher risks, and take the appropriate precautions.
Whether you’re about to embark on your summer holiday or are deciding which country to visit next, here are our top five travel vaccination tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation. Happy travelling!
1) Check before you travel
It’s important to take time before you travel to check what vaccinations or preventative treatments such as antimalarials you may need. There are a number of websites that provide health advice on specific destinations as well as up to date information about recent disease outbreaks. These include the UK NHS ‘FitForTravel’ website and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler’s Health website.
You should make sure you talk to your local doctor about what vaccinations you might need for your trip depending on your planned activities. For example, if you are planning to visit remotes area with limited access to healthcare facilities or where you will be exposed to certain rural animals, you may need to take additional precautions.
2) Don’t leave it too late
Make sure you don’t leave it to the last minute to check if you need a vaccination for your trip. As a general rule, you should see a doctor at least 4–6 weeks before travel, since many vaccinations require multiple injections over a prolonged period of time before they are effective. These include the Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccinations.
3) Proof of vaccination
Certain countries will ask for proof of vaccinations such as yellow fever, before allowing you to enter, so it’s important to check what documentation is required. You can find a list of those countries requiring proof of yellow fever vaccination on the World Health Organization’s International Travel and Health website here. Remember that some countries may ask for proof of yellow fever vaccination, even if you have only been in transit through the airport of an at risk country for a short period of time.
4) Remember your boosters
It’s important to remember that many vaccines wear off over time, and may require boosters to remain effective. If you had a tetanus vaccination for that student backpacking adventure over a decade ago, then you are likely no longer protected and will need to get an additional dose! Other examples of vaccinations that require boosters include Hepatitis B, which requires a booster at one month and six months after the initial dose to provide lifelong protection, as well as the typhoid vaccination which is generally is only effective for three years. It can be helpful to keep a record of your vaccinations, so it’s easy to check what you’re covered for the next time you travel and when you may need to schedule a booster.
5) Prevention is better than cure
This is a well-known saying but one that still rings true. Ultimately it’s crucial you take action to minimise your risk of exposure to viruses and infectious diseases when you travel. This includes simple precautions such as washing your hands regularly and carrying antibacterial hand gel, covering up your skin to prevent mosquito bites which can spread the likes of malaria and dengue fever, and avoiding tap water or raw fruits and vegetables which may harbour the typhoid bacteria.
Finally, certain groups may need to avoid travelling to those areas where there is a high risk of exposure to particular viruses, such as pregnant women to places with a high prevalence of the zika virus. If you have any concerns, you should speak to your doctor who will be able to advise of you the risks, and whether it is safe to travel.