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Vaccines and Health Considerations for Travel Overseas

By: Dylan Jones, Pharm.D.

Are you thinking about travelling abroad?  Have plans already to visit another country?  Experiencing new cultures, seeing new sights, and spending time with loved ones are all great reasons to venture abroad.   While it can certainly seem to be an overwhelming amount of work to coordinate flights, accommodations, itineraries, and financials, it is important not to forget about your own well-being in the process.  There are a number of additional considerations that travelers must address in addition to those already mentioned, and Collier Drug is here to help.

Do I need any vaccines before I travel?

One of your primary considerations should be whether or not you have the recommended immunizations for the country/countries you will be visiting.  Diseases can spread more easily in other countries for a number of reasons – the primary causes being improperly sanitized food and water and insect bites.  Poor food preparation affects many travelers by causing “travelers’ diarrhea,” but it can also have much more serious consequences.   Hepatitis A can be contracted by improperly prepared foods.

The most common vaccine recommendations for travelers are:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever

The CDC website for travel recommendations is a great resource for specific information related to the area you plan to visit. Assessing the risk of specific diseases in each country you will encounter determines which vaccinations one should receive prior to the trip.  Consulting with an expert regarding your travel itinerary is highly encouraged.

How can I ensure I have all the vaccinations I need before I travel?

1) Don’t wait too long!  Vaccines require your immune system to produce a response to the antigens in the vaccine. This can take 6 weeks to get the full benefit, so don’t put it off!

2) Meet with a medical professional that is trained in travel vaccinations.  Administering travel vaccinations requires special training. You want to meet with someone who is knowledgeable, can administer the vaccinations, and provide you with additional safety tips that will benefit you while you are travelling.shutterstock_192507842

At Collier Drug, we have a pharmacist available to sit down with you to discuss your plans, discuss the vaccinations needed, and develop a plan for proper administration.  We can also administer any necessary vaccines for your convenience. To set up a consultation appointment, contact our Dickson Street location at (479) 442-6262 and ask for a Travel Vaccine Consultation.  The cost of the consultation is $40 plus any co-payments required by your insurance for the vaccines.

What other medical precautions should I take when I travel?

Antibiotics

When I travel, I always make sure that I have an antibiotic handy in case I fall victim to a food-borne illness.  E. coli is the most common infecting organism in food borne illness and is easily treated with a course of antibiotics.  (Make sure to discuss this option with your doctor.)

First Aid Kit

Travelers should also make sure to have a small first aid kit handy.  Whether you are braving a busy metro station in Rome or hiking through the Alps in Switzerland, you never know when you might acquire a small cut or sprained ankle.   Being able to quickly address the injury will allow you to get back to enjoying the experience you have travelled so far for, and also prevent it from becoming any worse. 

Insect (Mosquito) Precautions

If you are going to a place where mosquitos are known to be bad, taking the necessary precautions against being bitten is important.  Mosquitos spread diseases – the most common of which is Malaria.  Symptoms of this disease usually appear within 7-30 days and mimic flu-like illness.  Without treatment, the symptoms can become worse and potentially lead to death.  Malaria is commonly found in Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific.  Each year 1,500 travelers from the United States contract this disease.  Contracting Malaria can be prevented by avoiding being bitten by mosquitos and/or by taking certain prescription medications.  Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, applying insect repellents (DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus), and sleeping in air conditioned rooms with a bed net are all ways to avoid mosquito bites.  Drugs such as chloropuine, Malarone, and mefloquine are all used to prevent malaria infection.  Again, consulting with an expert at least a month prior to your trip is highly recommended.

 Travel Insurance – It’s a good idea

One last important consideration is to check if your insurance company will provide coverage should you have to be seen by a doctor or go to the hospital while you are away.  Many insurance companies do not cover foreign services, so it is recommended to look into special insurance for the time that you will be away.  A helpful website for travel insurance is travelinsurancereview.net where you can pick the type of coverage you want and compare quotes.

 What to do when you get home

After returning home, it’s possible to still come down with an illness that you acquired while overseas. Be vigilant for the next few weeks and see a doctor if you show signs of illness such as fever, nausea, vomiting, unusual aches or pains.  Inform your doctor where you travelled and what you did while you were there.

Travelling abroad is a wonderful experience and takes a lot of work in order to arrange.  It is important not to forget about our own health and well-being as we are focused on securing the best flight and hotel deals.  Taking the time to make sure you have the proper immunizations, medications based on risk, and access to medical care while you are abroad are all equally important as saving money.  It could save your life.