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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you should also be thinking about your health – and the preventive care you may need before you leave the United States. Schedule a visit with your internist to discuss any vaccinations you may need.

It is important to schedule your visit 4-6 weeks in advance of your departure because some vaccinations need time in your system before they reach full protection, or may require two or more shots administered over a couple of weeks.

Information your internist will need:

  • Destination(s)
  • Departure date
  • Expected lengths of stay
  • If you are, or may become, pregnant during your travel or within three months afterward
  • If you are, or will be, breastfeeding during your travel or shortly after
  • If you are under treatment for a chronic health condition, particularly HIV infection or other condition that compromises immune systems
  • If you have already received the recommended “domestic” vaccinations:
    – Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) at some time in your life
    – Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) booster within the past 10 years
    – Influenza (in the fall of each year)
    – Pneumococcal (for those at risk, every 10 years)
    – Varicella/chicken pox (two doses if you have never had chicken pox)
  • Whether you have already received vaccinations for travel to this or other destinations during your adulthood.

In addition to providing the recommended immunizations, your internist can discuss other health concerns you may need to consider.

What immunizations might you need?

The immunizations you need depend on where you are going and what infectious diseases are prevalent in those areas. This information can change monthly, so it is important to speak to your internist even if you have traveled to your destination before.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the most up to date information on vaccines needed for travel outside the United States on their Travelers’ Health web page

Remember, everyone is different so be sure to speak to your internist for recommendations for your specific circumstances.

General health tips for travelers:

  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of all your prescriptions, with enough for several extra days in case your return home is delayed. It’s also a good idea to leave the medications in their original containers (with labels) and to carry medications in your carry-on baggage.
  • Avoid uncooked foods while traveling (except for fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself)
  • Use bottled water – even to brush your teeth
  • Bring:
    – a spare pair of prescription glasses and/or contact lenses (or your written prescription)
    – powdered Gatorade or oral rehydration salts (for diarrhea)
    – insect repellant
    – sunscreen
    – hand sanitizer (moist wipes or liquid)
  • Carry a list of allergies, medications and dosages, and health conditions with you.
  • Find out if you need proof of immunizations before being able to return to the United States from your destination.
  • Keep a personal record of the immunizations you get and when you received them. If you are a frequent traveler, this can save you from having to repeat immunizations unnecessarily.