Travel Immunization Basics – The Travel Pharmacist

travel first aid kit


Travel immunizations can make or break your time spent in a foreign country. Ensuring that your body is capable of fighting off diseases you may encounter on your travels is the most important thing you can do to ensure a safe and healthy trip. Depending on where you plan to travel and what type of traveling you plan to to – you might require various vaccinations or medications to protect you from a variety of illnesses.  Whether you are heading to the tropical regions and might encounter malaria carrying mosquitoes, or if you are heading to an area where Yellow Fever is prominent, it is wise to take precautions.

The most common vaccinations when traveling abroad include:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Hepatitis
  • Tetanus
  • Malaria – typically a prophylactic pill can be taken

Many countries have vaccination requirements in order to enter the area. Be sure to check your destination for both required and suggested vaccinations. Certain times of the year have more prevalent cases of illness, as do more remote regions.

PLAN AHEAD!  A few vaccination treatments require a series of vaccinations (like the Hepatitis series).  Not only might it take several weeks/months to get a complete series of shots, many times the effectiveness of the vaccination are not immediate. Also, you don’t want to be battling any possible post-vaccination side effects while you’re traveling.  Start planning your vaccinations as soon as possible once you’ve made travel plans.

Not all insurance companies will cover your vaccinations because they are not the typical preventative medicine. Check with your carrier to see what they might cover. Some insurance will allow the shots, but they require you to pay up front and submit forms for reimbursement. Be sure to check with your doctor before making an appointment as well. It might be better to go to a travel clinic who will have all the most updated information on country requirements, actually have vaccination products in stock, and can provide you with the appropriate documentation to bring with you to verify your immunizations. Many local pharmacies are starting to integrate Travel Medicine into their stores, so this might be a good place to start.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has valuable resources for more information on vaccinations. They also provide specific destination information. Start with a list of the places you’ll be visiting and see what’s required.


Destination info:

Don’t forget to bring along proof of your vaccinations with your travel papers as some countries will not allow you to enter without the required documentation.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses and How to Avoid Them


Do you know the Top 5 Ailments that vacationers and travelers dread most when away from home? And even more importantly, do you know how to treat vacation illnesses when they occur? With this handy list, now you will!

*Insect Bites
*Headaches/Body Aches
*Upset Stomach/ GI issues
*Urinary Tract Infections

When traveling, you leave the familiar surroundings of home and go out to explore new and exciting venues. Unfortunately, these changes in environment can result in problems such as increased sun exposure, unfamiliar insects/allergic reactions, and drastic changes in climate that weaken our defenses. Vacationers are more prone to suffer from “vacation-itis” when their systems are hit hard by exotic or rich foods, irregular meal times, increased alcohol consumption and increased sexual activity.

Here are a few tips for taking care of these vacation illnesses before they ruin your good time away from home.

Sunburn – There is nothing more annoying than ruining your vacation by getting badly sunburned on the first day. It’s important to bring along familiar sun protection if visiting someplace where you’ll be spending lots of time in the sun. Use UVB and UVA sun protection for the lips, face and body when outside and don’t forget a hat or cool, long sleeves as extra protection. If you do get too much sun, packing a bottle of aloe vera gel with lidocaine will help reduce the pain. Put the bottle in the refrigerator or under cool water for especially quick relief.

Insect Bites – If you have a known serious allergy to insect bites, please don’t forget an extra prescription Epi-Pen just in case of emergencies. For minor insect bites or stings, bringing along an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will help reduce swelling and inflammation, but beware – it will make you VERY sleepy. Hydrocortisone cream is readily available in most vacation spots and can bring fast relief for itching from bites or rashes.

Headaches/Body Aches – Whether your body is hurting from an overindulgence of alcohol or overdoing it on the slopes, bringing along a pain reliever when traveling is a good idea. One of my favorites for headaches is the fast acting BC Powder which contains a pain-punching combination of aspirin and caffeine. For muscle and body aches, an anti-inflammatory product like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will work to stop swelling commonly associated with tendon, muscle, and joint pain.

Upset Stomach/GI Issues – Nothing ruins a trip faster than an attack of traveler’s diarrhea or other intestinal upset. Foreign foods and water can wreck havoc on the body’s digestive system, so it’s always good to be prepared. One of the standards in our Travel Medicine Kit is the fast-acting anti-diarrhea medicine Imodium (loperamide). If GI issues are common when you vacation, consider the use of a probiotic like Florastor to help prevent and shorten the duration of travel-related stomach upset. It’s recommended that you take it twice a day, starting four days before, during and for four days after the trip.

Urinary Tract Infections – For women who are prone to UTIs, it’s a good idea to carry a product called Cystex. I recommend it highly because it not only dulls the pain of the UTI with an analgesic, but also has an antibacterial agent to slow the progression of the infection until you can see the doctor. It’s also considered an excellent preventative medication should you engage in certain behaviors (i.e. not staying hydrated, increased sexual activity, etc.) that make some women more prone to UTIs.

BONUS TRAVEL TIP! Avoiding Embarrassing “Jet Bloat”

If you’re flying to your vacation destination, be sure to be prepared for the “jet bloat” that always occurs at the most inopportune time. This happens when the body is forced to deal with increased gas volume due to elevation gains (the higher the altitude you fly, the more the gas in the body expands). Activated charcoal capsules, like CharcoCaps, do double duty to help absorb some of the gas volume as well as the odor.

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

The Travel Pharmacist


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