Don't Let Travel Vaccinations Scare You

We recently visited a travel doc to find out which vaccines are required for our trip and we were surprised at how few there were. We heard horror stories about getting 10 shots in one sitting and then feeling extremely sick. Thankfully, it really isn’t that bad.

Here is breakdown of what we were told:

We were given a packet of information on all of the countries we are visiting and what problems we could face while visiting there. It included malaria maps, sanitation standards, current outbreaks, and what we could do to prevent getting sick.

Europe is Safe

As you probably know, most people visiting Europe do not require any additional vaccines or health precautions. There are just a few countries that suggest you drink bottled water and only eat thoroughly cooked foods. Also, be sure to keep up on your measles vaccine- many people in Europe are choosing not to vaccinate for it and therefore their herd immunity is weaker.

Malaria Pills

As for Asia and Africa, we discussed with our doctors exactly which cities we were planning to stay in so that we could see how long we would be spending in malaria risk areas. For us, we found we are spending most of our time in large cities so our risk is a lot lower. This was the case for us in South East Asia. Despite the amount of malaria there is in the countries, cities like Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh have very low risk for travelers. Unfortunately, some countries are entirely at risk for malaria. This is the case with most African countries.

After figuring out how many days you will be in a risk area, you need to get enough pills to start 2 days BEFORE you get there and to keep taking them until a week AFTER you leave. This was kind of a bother for us since we will have to carry a bottle of pills with us that we won’t use until six months into our trip.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

After malaria, the biggest concern the doctor told us about was traveler’s diarrhea. Both of our doctors prescribed Zithromax (AKA the Z-Pak) for when we have bouts of especially awful diarrhea. Over our nine-month trip, they gave us enough for 4 different occurrences (I really hope we don’t need that much!). They also suggested we purchase Imodium over-the-counter for when we get diarrhea from not being used to the food and environment.

Typhoid Fever

The typhoid vaccine was recommended for both of us because it is a risk in most of the Asian and African countries we are visiting. My fiance’s doctor suggested he get the shot- it was a one-time shot in the arm and other than the regular soreness, he did not experience any side effects. My doctor gave me a vaccine pill. My vaccine was a live virus and therefore had a higher risk for side effects like fever and nausea. I also had to remember to take it every other day for about a week which is harder than you would think. Both vaccines have the same effectiveness, but the shot lasts for two years whereas the pill lasts for five years.

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever is the vaccine we were most apprehensive about. We have heard all about how it causes fevers and nausea. Lucky for us, we are not visiting any areas that require or suggest a yellow fever vaccination! (Yay!) The vaccine is most often recommended for visitors to sub-Saharan African and South American countries. We are not visiting South America on this trip and the only African countries we will see are Egypt, Morocco, and Tanzania- none of which are at risk.

Rabies

Rabies is a threat basically anywhere you go, but most countries, if any, do not require a vaccination to enter. My fiancé’s doctor suggested it, whereas mine said I was fine without it. The vaccine is three shots taken over a month and once you get the shots, you are vaccinated for life- no boosters needed! However, it’s pretty pricy if your insurance doesn’t cover it. One thing to note if you choose not to get the vaccine, if you get bitten by an animal you can simply go to the closest U.S. embassy to get treatment. If during your travels you would not be able to get treatment within 24 hours, then I would highly suggest you consider the rabies vaccine before you go.

Other Important Vaccines

Other required vaccines are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Flu, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella. These you will definitely need if you are not currently caught up on your boosters. I put them all together because chances are you have had them before.

Other Safety Musts

-If you don’t want to get a vaccine that your doctor suggests, check to make sure that it isn’t required by the country you are visiting. Some places require certain vaccines just to get into the country.

-Be careful when driving and be aware of your surroundings always.

-If you are staying anywhere that isn’t the United States or Europe, be very careful about what you are putting into your body. The water in other countries contain parasites and bacteria that our bodies are not used to handling and could cause terrible sickness. This means you shouldn't eat salads, fruits that don’t have a peel, or even brush your teeth with water that didn’t come from a bottle. Be cautious even if workers at resorts say that the water is bottled. Whenever possible, make sure the seal on your bottle is broken by you.

-Make sure that all of your food is thoroughly cooked and steaming. The animals in foreign countries carry many different diseases that could be harmful if not cooked properly.