Traveling Safely to Other Countries: Which Drugs and Travel Vaccines Do You Need?
March 1, 2023
Traveling to exotic parts of the world, while exciting, can also be pretty risky for your health. That’s precisely why you need to be well-prepared before embarking on your travels abroad. What does that include? Well, for starters, you need to understand the potential health risks and learn how you can mitigate them. That is where travel vaccines and drugs come into play.
Immunization and obtaining the proper medications can be life-saving when traveling to distant countries. Because this is a crucial step, and we know it can be overwhelming, we’re here to help. If you’re planning a vacation outside of Canada, let us tell you about medications and vaccines that will ensure a safe and healthy trip. Keep reading to learn how you can protect yourself.
Common Travel Vaccines
First and foremost, let’s talk about travel vaccines. Proper immunization is imperative when visiting remote areas or places with a high risk of serious, easily transmitted, and sometimes even fatal illnesses. These are the four most common travel-related vaccines that will keep you safe during international travel.
- Hepatitis A/B: These vaccines protect against two types of viral hepatitis that can be transmitted through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A and B are serious illnesses that can cause long-term liver damage, so getting vaccinated before traveling to areas with poor sanitation or endemic areas is key.
- Typhoid: This is a bacterial infection spread through contaminated food and water. It can cause fever, diarrhea, and other symptoms. The typhoid vaccine is recommended for travelers visiting areas with poor hygiene conditions or where outbreaks are common.
- Yellow fever: This viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and can lead to serious illness or death. The yellow fever vaccine is required for entry to some countries in Africa and South America, and is also recommended when traveling to areas with a high disease risk.
- Rabies: This viral disease is spread through the bite of an infected animal, such as a dog or bat. The rabies vaccine is recommended for travelers at risk of animal bites or scratches, especially those planning to spend time outdoors or working with animals.
Apart from these travel-related vaccines, you should make sure you have all your routine vaccinations, no matter where you’re jetting off to.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP) vaccine
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Meningococcal vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- Rotavirus vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
Keep in mind that, whenever you’re traveling abroad, getting flu shots is also recommended.
Diseases Preventable with Medication
Malaria and Other Preventable Diseases
Malaria is one of the most dangerous diseases travelers face when visiting tropical and subtropical regions. It’s caused by the mosquito-borne parasite Plasmodium, which infects red blood cells in humans. The most common symptom of malaria is fever and chills, but it can also cause headaches, body pain, nausea, and other serious symptoms. To prevent it, you need to take antimalarial medication for the duration of the trip.
In addition to malaria, there are several other common diseases that can be prevented with proper medication. These include:
- typhoid fever
- traveler’s diarrhea
- dengue fever and
Altitude Sickness Medication
Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) occurs when you ascend to high altitudes too quickly before the body can acclimate to the changes in air pressure and oxygen levels. Altitude sickness is most common at elevations above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) but can occur at lower elevations in some individuals.
Altitude sickness can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping. In more severe cases, altitude sickness can progress to high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which can be life-threatening.
Depending on your destination, proper medication might be necessary. Here are some travel destinations where altitude sickness medication could come in handy:
- Ecuador – the capital of Ecuador, Quito, is located at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 meters).
- Peru – popular destinations at high altitudes include Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca.
- Nepal – trekking routes, such as the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit Trek, reach altitudes above 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).
- Tibet – Lhasa, the capital city, is located at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,700 meters).
- Bolivia – La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, at an altitude of 11,975 feet (3,650 meters).
Vaccines and Medications for Specific Countries or Regions
In order to help you make sure you’re getting the right immunization before your trip, we want to point out the recommended vaccines and medicine for specific locations. Let’s dive in.
A trip to India is an out-of-this-world experience, but if you want to stay healthy and safe, it’s important to take care of your health checks and immunization before boarding the flight. When it comes to India travel vaccines and drugs, here are some recommendations by the Public Health Agency of Canada:
- Routine vaccinations
- Hepatitis A/B vaccines
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Yellow fever
If you’re going on an exotic Asian vacation, you should be aware of the recommended vaccinations for Southeast Asia. These are some commonly recommended travel vaccinations for the Philipines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and other countries in South Asia:
- Routine vaccinations
- Hepatitis A
- Japanese encephalitis
- Malaria medication: Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
Even if you’re traveling to Japan or China, the same vaccinations are recommended.
Be sure to consult a medical professional or health provider for more information about requirements for specific locations.
Recommended travel vaccinations for South America are mostly similar to those needed for India. But let’s take a closer look at which pre-travel vaccines and medications are recommended for which country.
- Routine vaccinations
- Hepatitis A/B
- Yellow fever: especially for Brazil, Peru and Bolivia
- Rabies: Chile, Argentina, Mexico
- Malaria medication: Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil
- Altitude sickness medication: Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico (if traveling to high altitudes)
Of course, these are general guidelines and recommendations. You should always check additional information and travel health recommendations by the local government depending on your destination to make sure you have the vaccines mandatory for travel.
What shots do you need to go to Africa? There is more than one travel vaccine generally recommended to travelers visiting Africa.
Let’s explore general immunization recommendations for Africa’s more popular travel destinations (South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania and Tunisia).
- Routine vaccinations
- Hepatitis A/B
- Rabies (if working with animals)
- Meningococcal vaccine: Tunisia
- Yellow fever: South Africa, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania
- Malaria medication: Kenya, Tanzania
Of course, the specific medical advice will depend on your destination, itinerary, the length of your stay, and your health condition.
Managing Chronic Health Conditions Abroad
If you have certain pre-existing medical conditions or chronic illnesses, you need to take extra precautions before your international travel. These are some general tips for maintaining your chronic illness when traveling overseas.
- Consult your health provider: Before embarking on your trip, talk to your doctor about the potential health risks of traveling. Your doctor can provide personalized advice on managing your condition abroad and help you decide if traveling is a safe option. Create a plan for managing your condition while away, including medication schedules and emergency contacts.
- Pack extra meds: Pack enough of your medications, plus additional days for a few extra days, just in case. Bring along an extra copy of your prescription if possible.
- Carry a medical alert card: If you have a chronic condition, it’s a good idea to carry a medical alert card or bracelet indicating your condition and any emergency contacts or important information.
- Research medical facilities in the areas you’ll be visiting. Find out where the nearest hospitals and clinics are, and make a note of any medical facilities that specialize in your condition.
- Bring important medical documents: This includes your medical history, medication list, and any recent test results.
Additional Tips for Staying Healthy While Abroad
Other than getting all your overseas vaccinations and packing preventative medicine, there are some additional things you can do to make sure you stay healthy during your stay abroad. Here are some general health tips to help you feel good while away.
- Hygiene – make sure you are regularly washing and/or sanitizing your hands, especially before eating or preparing food, after using the bathroom, and when you return to your hotel.
- Food safety – when eating out, watch for cleanliness, hygiene, and food quality. Avoid street-vendor food and raw or undercooked foods. Stick to bottled water or water that has been boiled or purified. Avoid drinking tap water, including ice cubes in drinks.
- Travel insurance – it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance in case of an unexpected health issue or emergency while abroad.
- Follow local health news and travel advisories – stay informed on the latest health news, travel advisories, and safety guidelines of the country you are visiting.
Ensure Your Travel Health – Get Professional Advice
So, to make sure you stay happy and healthy while far away from home, it’s best to make sure you have all the vaccines required for travel and preventative medication that will protect you. Navigating all the health and safety requirements can be overwhelming, we know. But remember that you can always count on Everest Pharmacy to advise and help you.
We are a premier, full-service pharmacy based in Toronto and our goal is to provide our customers with an elevated alternative experience to the big chain pharmacies. We’re dedicated to giving you personalized advice based on your needs.
Book your appointment, and let us take care of your healthcare and wellness needs or contact us directly with any questions.