Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Evil Side of Travel - Vaccinations!

I am laying on the couch, not feeling like moving at all. My body aches and I can barely lift my arms to grab the remote. The flu? Not quite. VACCINATIONS! Two in each arm, actually.

When I signed up to go volunteer in Cambodia, the last thing on my mind was vaccinations, so heed my warning – they can be expensive and they can put you down and out!

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating (but just a little). Either way, vaccinations are a necessity for anyone traveling to another country, especially one that may have diseases that aren’t usually found in your home country, such as typhoid or yellow fever.

The first thing you need to do is go to the Center for Disease Control website. Here you will be able to find information about recent outbreaks of diseases in different countries, as well as specific vaccination information for the country/countries you may be visiting.

After that, I would suggest finding a travel clinic 4-6 weeks before you leave. Getting vaccinated at a clinic is much cheaper than going to your regular doctor. In most cases, health insurance doesn’t cover travel vaccinations, so if it’s going to be out of pocket, most people want to minimize the expense. Between the cost of the nurse consultation, and then the cost of each shot, the total can add up very quickly! Be sure to take your travel itinerary and immunization record with you to avoid getting a vaccination you may already have.

Even with the recommended vaccinations, take the basic safety precautions – wear bug spray to keep the disease-carrying mosquitoes at bay, make sure everything is cooked or washed thoroughly, and drink bottled water or boil your water before drinking. If only tap water is available, water that is uncomfortably hot to touch is probably okay, just let it cool off before you drink it! You can also buy a water purifier in the camping section of a sporting goods store, or use a 2% tincture of iodine solution (5 drops per quart or liter for clear water, 10 drops per quart or liter for cloudy water). These tips are also important to keep in mind considering that vaccinations aren’t available for some diseases, such as dengue fever or malaria. With malaria, it is suggested to take anti-malaria medication before your trip. There are different kinds of anti-malaria medication for different areas of the world, so be sure to check the CDC website or talk to your doctor to find out which type you need.

Even the most spontaneous of travelers or the biggest needle-phobe should make time to get vaccinations. You can’t get out and experience much from a hospital bed!

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