Before you go
- Plan ahead. If you need any immunizations or vaccinations, see your doctor at least 6 weeks before you leave. Some vaccines don't reach the highest protection until about 6 weeks after you get the shots.
- Have medical and dental check-ups before your trip, to be aware of problems and to find out about medicines you might need to take with you.
- Be prepared. Find out what your health insurance will pay for if you see a doctor while you're in another country. Carry enough of your regular medicines in their original containers, along with extra prescriptions for them. Also bring your eyewear prescriptions. Wear a medical information bracelet if needed. Take a first-aid kit (see suggestions below).
Vaccines you might need
Your doctor will review the plans for your trip and decide whether you need any vaccines. The vaccines you got when you were a child also may need to be updated if you are not fully protected. Vaccines that you may need include the following:
- Hepatitis A or hepatitis A immune globulin
- Hepatitis B
- Influenza (the flu)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids
- Typhoid fever
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Yellow fever
While you're traveling
- Eat carefully if you're going to a country with an increased risk of traveler's diarrhea. Steaming-hot, well-cooked food is usually safest. Avoid eating foods from street vendors, unpasteurized dairy products and raw or uncooked seafood. Peel fruits yourself. Drink water from commercially-sealed bottles or drink carbonated beverages. Avoid ice. Use bottled water when you brush your teeth.
- If you're going to a country with an increased risk of mosquito-borne disease, protect yourself against insects. Insect repellents that contain DEET work the best. Wear permethrin-coated clothing and use bed nets while you sleep.
- If you're going to a country with a risk of malaria, your doctor may prescribe preventive medicine for malaria. Remember to start taking your malaria medicine before you leave on your trip, take it during your travels and keep taking it for 4 weeks after you get home.
- Avoid swimming and other water activities in freshwater lakes and streams. Schistosomiasis (also called bilharziasis) is a disease you might be exposed to in some African streams and lakes.
- Try to avoid taking overcrowded transportation. Try not to ride in vehicles without safety belts. Wear a helmet if you'll be riding a motorcycle. Try to avoid driving at night or in unfamiliar areas without local help and directions.