Talk with your doctor months in advance of a trip to find out whether any immunizations are recommended. Certain things, such as your age and health, where you are going, and the length of your stay, affect your risk of disease and your need for immunization.
Your age and health
People with certain medical conditions, such as immune system problems, may have different immunization recommendations than healthy people. Also, young children who are traveling may need to receive their routine immunizations sooner than normally scheduled.
Where you travel
In most developed countries (including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and western and northern European countries), the risk of exposure to serious diseases is generally no greater than it is in the United States.
The risk of exposure to serious disease may be much higher in developing countries (such as those in most parts of Africa and Asia and many parts of South and Central America) than it is in most developed countries. This is especially true for areas with poor sanitation (for example, poor water and food handling). For example:
- If you are going to travel to South America or Africa, you may need the yellow fever vaccine(What is a PDF document?).
- Travelers to developing countries should take precautions to prevent hepatitis A infection, which may include getting immunized. Additional immunizations, such as typhoid vaccine(What is a PDF document?), may be recommended.
The need for travel immunizations depends on your immunization history, the specific area you plan to visit, the time of year, and whether any outbreaks of disease have recently occurred.
How you travel and types of activities
Certain activities or modes of travel increase your risk of exposure to disease. These include:
- Exploring rural areas or those off the usual tourist route.
- Taking backpacking trips.
- Visiting people in another country.
Length of stay
The longer you stay in a country, the more exposure you have to local pathogens that could cause harm.
You can get information about travel immunizations by:
- Contacting your local health department or doctor.
- Visiting the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/travel.
For more information on immunizations and health related to travel, see the topic Travel Health.