Immunizations - Don't Leave Home Without Them - My Family Travels

Doc Holiday on recommended immunizations, which regions are likely to require them, and where to get the shots you need.

If you think immunizations are just for children, think again. As fascinating as some exotic locations can be, they do carry the danger of diseases we’ve virtually eradicated with vaccines in the U.S.  For example:
  • Diphtheria is still a dangerous respiratory disease in developing nations, where polio is also common.
  • Cholera, a severe diarrheal illness spread by contaminated water, is common in places like India and Pakistan, where sanitation can be primitive.
  • Yellow fever, an often fatal disease carried by mosquitoes, remains endemic in Africa and South America.
  • Measles is still endemic in Central Africa.
  • Even plague is still a threat in some developing countries.

Only smallpox has been eradicated worldwide.

To protect yourself and your family, you’ll need a series of immunizations. The World Health Organization, The Center for Disease Control, your doctor, or an executive health clinic should be able to advise which are recommended. Since some countries require proof of inoculation, ask the doctor to fill out an Official Certificate of Vaccination for every traveler.

Every adult should have a diphtheria-tetanus booster every 10 years, whether or not travel is planned. This disease, caused by unclean wounds, can occur virtually anywhere, even your backyard. 

Immunizations against polio, typhoid (a bacterial disease that causes fever and gastrointestinal problems), and hepatitis A and B are given to most travelers to developing nations to prevent food and water-borne illness. Vaccines against plague, rabies, meningococcus, mumps, rubella, and even flu may also be advisable. Make sure your children’s immunizations are up to date before departure.

For travel to countries in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa, where mosquito-borne illnesses are likely to be a problem, International Health Reuglations require immunization against yellow fever. While there’s no vaccine against malaria, you can take along drugs like mefloquine that can help prevent illness and insect repellant containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) to help keep mosquitoes at bay.

Whether additional vaccines will be needed depends on your medical history, your destination, travel style, and length of stay. Your physician may also prescribe antibiotics to take along, in case you do get sick, as well as anti-diarrheal medicines.

Travel Tips

If you are traveling somewhere that you need a vaccination for, see a health care provider at least four to six weeks before your trip to allow time for needed vaccines to take effect. Make sure you bring prescription medicines to last the entire trip. Pack half in hand luggage in case your bags are lost, as well as extra for any unforeseen delays. Taking precautions against disease when you’re traveling with your family will ensure that no one brings home any unwelcome souvenirs.

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