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Travel Health - Before You Go

Get needed vaccines and medicines

Check with the nearest travel health clinic, your regional health department, your doctor, or one of the websites listed above to see what kind of vaccines you should get. In the United States, most state health clinics can give you travel vaccines, some medicines, and healthy travel tips.

See your doctor or go to a clinic as soon as you can, or at least 6 weeks before traveling. Some vaccines need to be given in more than one dose, and you may need more than 6 weeks to get protection. You may need vaccines to protect against:

  • Childhood infections, if they aren't up-to-date for you and your children. This includes shots for polio(What is a PDF document?), diphtheria(What is a PDF document?), measles(What is a PDF document?), whooping cough (pertussis)(What is a PDF document?), mumps(What is a PDF document?), and rubella(What is a PDF document?).
  • Tetanus(What is a PDF document?), if you haven't received one in the last 10 years.
  • Hepatitis A(What is a PDF document?), if you are going to developing countries where the disease is common. The vaccine(What is a PDF document?) is given as two shots. The first hepatitis A shot usually works in about 4 weeks. It protects most people from getting hepatitis A. The second shot is given at least 6 months after the first shot and provides lasting protection.
  • Hepatitis B(What is a PDF document?).
  • Yellow fever(What is a PDF document?). This vaccine is now required for travelers who plan to visit countries in South America and Africa where the disease is active.
  • The flu(What is a PDF document?) or complications of pneumonia (PPSV vaccine(What is a PDF document?) or PCV vaccine(What is a PDF document?)).
  • Typhoid fever(What is a PDF document?), especially if you are traveling to an area where the risk of typhoid fever is high. These areas include Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Your doctor, health clinic, or health department will have the most recent recommendations.
  • Rabies(What is a PDF document?), if you may be handling or near animals in parts of the world where rabies is common.

More immunizations may be needed depending on the area you are visiting, how long you will be there, and the purpose of your journey. For example, if you will be trekking in rural Asia for a month or longer, you may need a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis(What is a PDF document?).1

A vaccine for traveler's diarrhea and cholera, called Dukoral, has been approved in Canada and Europe. But it is not available in the United States.

To learn more, see the topic Immunizations.


Ask about a prescription for antimalarial drugs if you will be visiting an area that has malaria. This includes large areas of Central and South America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and many South Pacific islands.

You may need to take one of several different preventive medicines, depending on the type of malaria parasite in that part of the world. These medicines need to be taken daily during your travels and for a specified time after you return. It is important to take all the tablets you were given. This may mean taking antimalarial tablets for several weeks after you get home.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 27, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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