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Your Travel Vaccine Checklist, Continent by Continent

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Which Travel Vaccines Will I Need? continued...

Immunization history
Knowing what past immunizations you have had and when will help the doctor know what routine vaccines you may need to have updated.  

Itinerary
Because the risk for certain diseases can vary greatly from one city or town to another even within one country, it's important to know as much about your itinerary as possible. This is true whether you are traveling with a guided tour or planning your own visit. When you review your itinerary, be sure to consider:  

  • Where you will be traveling, including whether you will be in urban or rural areas
  • How long you will visit
  • What season you will visit
  • Lodging conditions (air conditioning, open-air tents, or screened-in house or room)
  • Mode of travel
  • Food
  • Planned activities  

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether or not to see a doctor about recommended vaccinations. Some people may not be able to receive certain vaccines due to allergy to a vaccine component or medical condition. Remember that, in general, you are much more at risk from the diseases that they protect you against than the vaccines.

What Steps Should I Take to Protect Myself While Traveling?

"I think basic hygiene and common sense is very helpful," says Kozarsky. "Washing hands before you eat, and not putting your fingers to your face or in your mouth, that kind of thing. There's so much that we pick up on our fingers that can cause diarrheal disease or food-borne illness. So basic sanitation or hand washing is extremely helpful." Kozarsky recommends carrying around one of the alcohol-based hand gels. She also emphasizes understanding which foods are safe to eat and making sure that you're drinking water that is bottled or boiled to get rid of organisms, or other bottled, carbonated drinks.  

Both Kozarsky and Goad stress using insect repellent and looking at other ways to protect yourself from insect bites in countries where malaria and other insect-borne diseases are present.  Specific drugs are used to prevent malaria and should be used by travelers to certain regions. The medicines used for prevention can vary by country, so its important to discuss your itinerary with your doctor.   

The important thing is to educate yourself as much as possible and follow any precautions carefully. "The educated traveler will be a healthy and happy traveler and will travel again, and that's what we try to encourage and enable," says Kozarsky.  

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