Immunizations aren’t just for children. No matter where you travel or how often you go, you want to return home happy and healthy. This includes dodging illnesses that can wreck your trip…and your longterm well-being. Travelers who become infected may be back home before symptoms develop. I’ve written about immunizations as part of early planning for travel and the need to avoid any pitfalls of a trip by ensuring immunizations are up to date. Now let’s get to the specifics.
Here are three immunizations to consider–the first two you should get even if you don’t go farther than the local shopping mall or enjoy a corn dog at the county fair. The third is a discussion to have with your healthcare provider.
1. Tetanus: Get your booster shot!
What it prevents: A deadly disease caused by bacteria (Clostridium tetani) that produces a neurotoxin (poison) which affects the central nervous system.
How you get it: Tetanus is not transmitted from one person to another. It comes from dirt or dust that enters a cut or wound through a puncture from a knife, splinter, or object carrying tetanus bacteria. A bite from an infected animal can do it, too.
Symptoms: Stiffness in the jaw (tetanus is also called “lockjaw”), difficulty swallowing, spasms in the chest, back, or neck. The incubation period is 3-21 days after being infected. The sooner symptoms appear, the more severe the infection.
Immunization: Tetanus is a standard childhood vaccination, given in a DPT (Diptheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) shot. However, immunity is not lifelong. Booster shots are given at 11 or 12 years of age. Adults need a booster vaccine called the Td vaccine (for tetanus and diphtheria) every 10 years.
2. Hepatitis A: Blame poor hand hygiene
What it prevents: A virus that causes a mild to severe liver disease.
How you get it: Hepatitis A (HAV) is transmitted by eating contaminated food, drinking unsafe water, or by contact with someone who is infected, usually with unwashed hands after using the toilet. Even objects that have been handled by an infected person can make you sick. It’s one of most common causes of food-borne illness.
Symptoms: Not everyone exhibits symptoms. For those who do: fatigue, low-grade fever, poor appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stool, sudden nausea and vomiting, or abdominal pain. The incubation period is 14-28 days.
Immunization: A single vaccination gives lifelong immunity. So does recovering from the illness, but why not go the easy and effective route?
3. Typhoid: An ounce of prevention…
Next is a vaccination that my internist recommended when he learned that I love to travel. His opinion is that it’s easy to get vaccinated, with limited risk and potential benefit for anyone who travels outside the United States. While one dose or round of vaccine is sufficient, some doctors recommend a booster in 2-5 years if the traveler is going to an infested area. Note: Immunization is not always 100% effective and all precautions should be taken to avoid the disease.
What it prevents: A very serious illness caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi.
How you get it: Contaminated food and water are the culprits. For U.S. citizens, it comes while traveling abroad. Around the world, 21 million people a year get typhoid and 200,000 die.
Symptoms: Very high fever, fatigue, weakness, stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite, and sometimes a rash. Untreated, it can kill up to 30% of people who get it. The incubation period is 8-14 days.
Immunization: There are two types of typhoid vaccine, both with small risk for reactions:
1. Inactivated typhoid (shot) Not given to children under age 2 or to anyone who allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine compound. A booster every 2 years is recommended for people who remain at risk.
2. Live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine which is taken orally (by mouth). A pill is taken in four doses on day 1, day 3, day 5, and day 7. A booster is given every 5 years for people who remain at risk.
Today’s TravelSmart Woman post isn’t the most thrilling. Not a fun topic, but neither is contracting a disease. But it’s important–adults shouldn’t neglect their safety, especially when immunizations can prevent illness and complications. Of course, check with your healthcare provider.