Planning your next adventure can be filled with excitement and anticipation. You focus on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. However, one thing you might overlook is your health. Some countries require additional vaccines for your safety. Others may not have the safest drinking water, which can turn a dream vacation into a disaster. I’ve put together a few things for you to consider before you grab your passport and pack your suitcase.
Check Vaccine Requirements
You may be wondering what vaccines you need for which countries. Unfortunately, the requirements can be very fluid and change with current, real-time information. Vaccines will protect you from illnesses that are endemic to foreign countries that may not be common in your home country. Some of those diseases are malaria, cholera, typhoid fever, and yellow fever. Also, check to make sure your routine vaccines are up to date including Tdap, COVID-19, influenza, and hepatitis A/B.
Where To Check For Updates
You can check for the latest information at the Center For Disease Control. When you go to the CDC’s website, type in the country to find vaccination requirements for your travel destination. Don’t forget to also check any additional countries you will be traveling through as some require certain vaccines just to enter their country. You have to make sure you have looked at every single country’s requirements.
There is a timeline I recommend my patients follow. Ideally, you want to look into vaccines about six months before you travel just in case you need several vaccines and they need to be spread out, or you could also need an immunization and then need time for a booster. However, if you’re short on time, you can typically get what you need in about two months.
About six weeks before you leave, you’ll want to check the CDC for any updates and then check again about two weeks before your trip.
Recommended Vs. Required
Many times, certain countries might make a vaccine “recommended” but not required. In this case, you should talk with your doctor about whether or not you should get the vaccine. Your doctor will consider your overall general history.
Passport Health Clinic
Your doctor might not always have certain vaccines available. For example, when my family and I planned a trip to Belize through the Belize Mission Society, we visited the Passport Health Clinic in the area we live. There, we found all the routine vaccines but also the unusual ones like the yellow fever vaccine.
Pack Additional Medications
I have a suggested list of over-the-counter medicines and vitamins I pack for traveling. To protect against diarrhea, take a probiotic daily, like Culturelle. To help protect the gut lining, take L-Glutamine. They help with improving the gut microbiome along with a good diet and integrity of the gut lining. Protecting the gut is especially important if you travel to remote areas or eat foods in places where you have no control over quality.
To keep your health in check, try modulating your immune system by loading up on vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D.
You don’t want to be searching for a pharmacy if you do get sick. I frequently pack Mucinex DM, Advil Cold and Sinus, Benadryl, Tylenol, Motrin, Pepto Bismol tablets, antibiotic creams, Dramamine, and Kaopectate.
It’s always good to schedule a visit with your primary care physician before your trip. You can ask your doctor for anti-nausea medication like Zofran. A stomach bug in a foreign country is incredibly hard to handle and can easily lead to dehydration. Also, traveling long distances in the back of a bus usually causes car sickness. A medication like Zofran could help ease those trips.
You want to pack your regular prescription medications. However, make sure you check well in advance to make sure you will have enough for your vacation in case you need a refill before you leave.
For my patients with frequent sinus infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, or other illnesses, I may consider prescribing antibiotics to take with them. Since they are established patients, they can call or message me with their symptoms if they have a problem while abroad and we can discuss treatment over the phone.
Locate Clinics In Your Destination Area
Finally, I recommend locating a clinic in your destination area in case you run into any additional issues. The resource I often use is the International Society of Travel Medicine.
Being prepared is the best way to enjoy your trip. No one wants to think about getting sick, but it’s something you should include in your vacation planning.