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From plane tickets and extra clothes to guided tours and insurance, travelers invest copious hours preparing for an international journey, but often neglect to plan for the most important aspect – their health. Different parts of the world can expose you to serious infections and diseases. Imagine an expensive and much anticipated trip spent recovering in the hospital or hotel room.
It is worth the time and effort to visit a travel clinic that specializes in providing needed education and immunizations. We asked Dr. Daniel Ruderfer, an infectious disease specialist at the TMCOne Travel Clinic, to answer some common, health-related travel questions.
What is a travel clinic? A travel clinic provides an office consultation with an infectious-disease specialist who offers vaccinations against communicable diseases prevalent in other parts of the world. In addition, all members of the traveling party receive mosquito-prevention guidance and specific dietary counseling, in an attempt to minimize foodborne illness.
Why is it important to have current immunizations when traveling internationally?
Because certain infections, such as salmonella typhi and hepatitis A, are preventable with appropriate vaccination. If the traveler develops these infections, severe symptoms may result (for example, severe diarrhea) and could lead to hospitalization. Depending on the area of travel, malaria prophylaxis (medication taken to prevent infection) may be prescribed to prevent this mosquito infection. Malaria can also result in severe illness that could require hospitalization.
Do the vaccines have side effects? Vaccines are universally well tolerated. Common but harmless side effects from vaccination include local injection pain/irritation, and more rarely, low-grade fever.
Should I get immunizations months in advance of traveling? Travel immunizations are ideally given at least two weeks before traveling. Immunizations require time for the body to make appropriate antibodies to the vaccine antigen in order for it to work effectively. Getting vaccines too close to anticipated travel may make the vaccine ineffective initially.
Will I receive paperwork to prove I’ve been immunized? Yes. A copy of the administered immunizations can be requested.
Do I need to inform the clinic of the immunizations I need when scheduling an appointment? The travel clinic physician will determine exactly which vaccines are recommended before the scheduled appointment.
Are travel immunizations covered by insurance? Travel immunizations are not covered by insurance and are an out-of-pocket expense. Our office offers affordable pricing, and all costs will be discussed prior to consultation.
Can I get other immunizations at my visit? In addition to travel-related vaccines, we also offer seasonal influenza vaccination to both children and adults.
Any other health tips for traveling abroad? Good hand hygiene prior to eating is a good rule of thumb, regardless of where your travel takes you. Avoiding undercooked foods (especially chicken and pork) is encouraged as there is always a risk for foodborne illness, even in the United States. In an effort to minimize waterborne illness, bottled water for drinking is also traditionally preferred when traveling.
Dr. Daniel Ruderfer is a board-certified pediatrician, specially trained to treat infectious disease in infants, children, and teens. He provides care at TMC for Children and offers travel immunizations and counseling for adults and kids at the TMCOne Travel Clinic.