Get travel-specific vaccinations, medications, and health advice

The next task is to make sure you get appropriate vaccinations, travel-specific medications, and health advice for your trip. In the United States, we don’t have some of the tropical diseases that you might encounter in some parts of the world. Malaria, Yellow Fever, and typhoid are examples of diseases that you would certainly want to protect yourself against. Your risk will depend on your itinerary, your activities, and your behaviors. We have developed a 3-step approach to accomplish this task.

Step 1: Visit the CDC’s website to familiarize yourself with the recommendations for your trip.

We’ve included a link for you here: www.cdc.gov/travel. By looking at this site, you can get an idea of recommendations regarding vaccines for your destination. For some destinations yellow fever or meningitis vaccines might be required for entry into the country, and this will be spelled out on the CDC site.

Other than these, vaccines are recommended, and your individual risk is determined by your itinerary, activity, and personal health history. Discussing these factors with a health care provider with travel medicine expertise can help you prioritize your vaccination and other healthcare needs. There are several places you might be able to get vaccinated, including your family physician, specialty travel clinics, and some pharmacies. That leads us to the next step.

Step 2: Make an appointment with either your personal doctor or a travel clinic to review your immunization needs and get other health advice.

Some family physicians do not keep travel vaccines in stock and may not have travel medicine expertise. They might prefer that you visit a travel clinic instead. Here’s a link to the CDC site where you can search for a clinic near you: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/find-clinic.

If possible, gather your personal vaccination record prior to your appointment so you can compare recommended vaccines to ones you have already received. If you don’t keep a personal vaccination record, clinic personnel should be able to check your vaccination history through your state’s immunization registry to make sure you aren’t duplicating vaccines you have received in the past. In addition to vaccines, the clinic might recommend medications to manage travel-related illnesses, such as traveler’s diarrhea, malaria, motion or altitude sickness, and others. Once you’ve received your advice and prescriptions, it’s time to get your shots and/or medications, so on to the next step.

Step 3: Get vaccinated.

If you’ve started this process at a travel clinic that has the vaccinations in stock, you’ll likely get vaccinated at the time of your consultation. However, a primary care physician would not likely keep certain travel vaccines, so you might have to go to a local pharmacy, health department, or travel clinic to get vaccinated. If you need Yellow Fever vaccine, only clinics or pharmacies that have Yellow Fever privileges can administer that vaccine. You can find Yellow Fever clinics here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellow-fever-vaccination-clinics/search. We’ll have a list of places to get travel vaccines listed here in the future, but for now, you might have to make a few phone calls to know the possible locations in your area.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to start this step early in your planning because it takes time for vaccinations to provide the protection you’ll need, and some vaccines require more than one shot. Travel medicine can be considered a specialty itself, so depending on the complexity of your itinerary and/or medical history, a visit to a travel clinic could be a good idea.