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Do I Need Immunizations for Travel?

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Question: Do I Need Immunizations for Travel?
Do I need travel immunizations or shots for travel? What kind of travel immunizations do I need? How can I prove I've had immunizations while traveling?
Answer: Whether or not you need immunizations for travel (shots!) depends in part on where you will be traveling. Not every country is going to demand that you already have shots before you travel to that country -- your concern will be more whether you *want* immunizations for travel.

If you're particularly interested in Africa, where immunizations are most likely to be required, go straight to Africa Travel Immunizations.

Who Recommends the Immunizations I Want for Travel?

Your doctor's office is a key place to ask what immunizations are recommended for your travel. You can also do the research yourself with the links below.

How Can I Prove I've Had Vaccinations for Travel (and Who Wants to Know)?

You can get an international health certificate from your doc which shows what immunizations you've had -- it's signed by your doc's office. International health certificates are available through the government, but it's usually easier to just do the deal with your doc.

Immigration officials in some countries may ask you for immunization certification proving you've had immunizations against cholera and yellow fever, and you may have to prove you had your childhood shots (like chicken pox) to some overseas employers -- if you think you may need it, prepare now by asking your childhood doc's office for a record. Your elementary school may also have the record. You may want to read about recommended vaccinations for children up to 18 years old.

Which Immunizations Do I Need for Travel?

See a pretty comprehensive list of infectious diseases and recommended prevention, including immunization, of interest to travelers to developing countries. In particular, you should know about vaccinations against yellow fever.

When you call to set up an appointment and when you go to get travel immunizations, have ready a list of countries to which you will be traveling; the doc's office will make immunization recommendations.

Check out a clickable destination health map from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) -- choose your global destination and see which travel vaccinations are recommended. If you prepare, you'll know which travel vaccinations you don't *have* to get if you don't want 'em (vaccinations can be spendy).

Is There a Vaccine for Malaria?

There is no vaccination against malaria -- your best bet is to keep malaria-carrying mosquitoes off your skin with good insect repellent. You may also want to look into malaria pills -- deal with those at least six weeks in advance of travel.

Bug dope with famously smelly DEET is great mosquito protection and is endorsed by the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, which watches health issues for US citizens. Use insect repellent containing DEET with care -- it's strong stuff. I put a few drops of Ben's (my personal insect repellent choice when DEET must be used) in my palms, rub them together and pat my clothes and hair. Works.

If you don't like the stink of DEET, try a natural insect repellent or one containing picaridin -- in 2006, the CDC also gave its seal of approval to picaridin (pick-CARE-a-den) as an effective anti-skeet agent. And finally, oil of lemon eucalyptus works as well as low concentrations of DEET, according to the CDC.

Read more about disease-carrying bugs and avoiding infectious disease abroad.

"The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor."
--Unknown
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