“Don’t Leave Home without Them”

travel immunizations
Traveling aboard? Getting the vaccines you need before you take the trip of a lifetime is your passport to healthy world travel. Prepare ahead of time, get your consult four to six weeks ahead of travel and avoid serious disease complications says John Foster, MD a travel medicine expert at Sunset Walk-In Healthcare and Occupational Medicine in West Hollywood, CA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 42,223 illnesses were reported by international travelers returning home, in the decade spanning from 2000 to 2010. The Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal’s July 2013 issue, a whopping 26 percent of return travelers with reported illness had visited sub-Saharan Africa, 17 percent had returned from Southeast Asia, 15 percent returned from south-central Asia and 10 percent had named countries in South America as their travel destinations.

Prepare Ahead: Your Pre-Travel Checklist

  • Have you scheduled a visit to a travel medicine expert?
  • Are you aware which vaccinations you or those traveling with you may need?
  • Do you have altered immunocompetence due to illnesses such as diabetes or HIV?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you traveling with infants or children?
  • Know before you go what vaccines are recommended or even required for your destination; visit the CDC Travel Health site.

Your Trip to the Travel Medicine Provider

  • Comprehensive Travel Health Consultation including the risks, and special precautions for the destination
  • Administration of traveler’s vaccines in accordance with CDC guidelines and entrance requirements for the destination country e.g. Yellow Fever
  • Vaccines documented on a WHO approved International Certificate of Vaccinations card kept with passport
  • Prescriptions for medications to prevent malaria and treat traveler’s diarrhea as appropriate for destination
  • The CDC separates travel vaccinations into three categories: required routine and recommended.
  • The only vaccine classified as "required" by International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
  • "Routine" vaccinations are those that are normally administered, usually during childhood, in the United States. International travelers should make sure that these vaccinations are up to date and that no boosters are required. Your travel vaccination regimen may include getting the necessary booster shots to ensure protection.
  • "Recommended" vaccinations are given to protect travelers from illnesses that occur routinely in other parts of the world. Doctors determine which vaccines are recommended for international travel on an individual basis, taking into consideration your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you are traveling, your age, your overall health status, and your immunization history.

The CDC urges would-be travelers to schedule the travel examination four to six weeks prior to leaving for their destinations. Since your body needs time to build up immunity after receiving a vaccine and many vaccines are given in a series over time. Even if you are making a last-minute trip or plan to leave in less than four weeks, check to see if any vaccines or preventive medications might be recommended says Dr. Foster.

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