How to Get Immunizations for Traveling

Three Parts:Getting Routine VaccinationsGetting Special VaccinationsAvoiding Pitfalls when Getting Immunizations

Traveling internationally can be a fun and exciting adventure. However, it is important to understand that various diseases that are not common in your country may be prevalent in the countries you are visiting. In addition to basic immunization, you may need to have immunizations for diseases like yellow fever. Make sure to educate yourself on the vaccinations you need and get properly vaccinated before setting out on your trip.

Part 1
Getting Routine Vaccinations

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    Check your vaccination records. To start, you'll want to check your existing vaccination records to see if you're due for any routine immunizations. You can ask your parents or your doctor for a copy of your records. You may also be able to find a copy online through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.[1]
    • Routine vaccinations are the vaccinations you would have received as a child in the form of a booster shot. Things like whooping cough and meningitis are usually vaccinated against in childhood. Vaccinations only last so long, and you may need a follow up vaccination if you have not received a shot since childhood.
    • Your doctor may have your vaccination records on hand. You may also be able to get vaccination records from your parents, as you likely got vaccinated as a child.
    • If you cannot find a record of your vaccinations, the CDC has a quiz you can take online. Using factors like your date of birth and gender, they can determine which vaccinations you likely need.
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    Make an appointment with your doctor if you're overdo for a vaccination. You may be up-to-date on routine vaccinations, especially if you're on the younger side. However, if you need something like a tetanus shot, make an appointment with your doctor. You want to make sure you get vaccinated before leaving for your trip. For international travel especially, being up-to-date on vaccinations may be required.[2]
    • Stores like Walgreens sometimes have walk-in clinics where you may be able to get a vaccination if your doctor is not free.
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    Ask about the shingles vaccination. Vaccinations for shingles are often administered as routine vaccinations. However, they are not as common as other vaccinations typically given in childhood. If you're traveling abroad, ask your doctor about the shingles vaccination. It may be worth your time to get vaccinated for these diseases depending on where you're traveling.[3]
    • Shingles is a virus similar to chicken pox that causes a painful rash. It is not life threatening, but can be very painful.[4] Coming down with shingles could potentially derail your trip, so ask your doctor if there's an increased risk for shingles where you're traveling.
    • If a shingles vaccine is reccomended, schedule one with your healthcare provider alongside any other routine vaccinations that are required for your travels.
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    Follow your doctor's instructions for aftercare. Vaccines are typically an easy procedure and do not require a lot of aftercare. However, you may have to practice some routine aftercare in regards to removing any bandages and watching for side effects. Ask your doctor about aftercare after receiving vaccinations.
    • Keep in mind some vaccinations require several rounds of shots. Make sure you understand how many shots you need to be safely vaccinated for a variety of diseases.

Part 2
Getting Special Vaccinations

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    Check to see if your destination requires specific vaccinations. Some destinations may require specific vaccinations. Vaccines against unusual diseases in the United States, like rabies and country-specific illnesses, may be required depending on where you're traveling.[5]
    • To see what special vaccinations are required, you can call an embassy or consulate of the country you're visiting to ask.[6] You can also find the information on websites for organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • You may want to ask your doctor as well, although your doctor may not know if he or she does not specialize in international medicine.
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    See if a yellow fever vaccination is required. In some countries, the disease yellow fever is prevalent. You are required to get a yellow fever vaccination before traveling to certain countries. You can find out if you need a yellow fever vaccination the same way you find out if you need other specific vaccinations. Consult an embassy or consulate or go online and get the information from the CDC or the WHO.[7]
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    Find a clinic near you that offers special vaccinations. Your regular doctor's office may not offer all the immunizations you need before traveling. You'll need to find a travel clinic, where you'll be provided with vaccinations for unusual diseases. If you cannot find a travel clinic in your area, you may have to take a day off to travel to a nearby clinic for the necessary vaccines.[8]
    • It's especially important to find a travel clinic if you're traveling to Africa, Mexico, Central America, South America, or Southeast Asia. In these countries, there is a higher risk of contracting malaria and other serious illnesses.

Part 3
Avoiding Pitfalls when Getting Immunizations

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    Make sure to book your appointment far enough in advance. Immunizations may take awhile to take effect. You also may need several rounds of shots for some immunizations. Make sure to book your appointment well in advance so you're vaccinated in time for your trip.[9]
    • You should obtain the necessary vaccinations at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave for your trip.
    • If you need to go to a special travel clinic, make sure you incorporate that into your schedule. If you have to make a day trip to get to a clinic near you, make sure to set aside time to make the trip 4 to 6 weeks before you leave.
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    Have a copy of your vaccination records on hand when traveling. You may have to present your immunization record at customs, especially if you're traveling to an area that requires special vaccines. Make sure you ask your doctor for a Certificate of Vaccination. Make sure to pack it in your carry-on luggage so you'll have it on-hand when asked.[10]
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    Consult with your own doctor before having vaccinations if you have certain medical conditions. Vaccinations are generally safe. However, certain medical conditions mean you may want to hold off on being vaccinated. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated if you have any of the following health conditions:[11]
    • If you have a severe allergy to any type of vaccination
    • If you're pregnant or breastfeeding
    • If you have a disease, such as diabetes or HIV, that weakens your immune system
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    Watch for side effects. Vaccinations are generally safe. However, they may come with side effects like a slight rash, pain, or swelling at the injection site. You also may experience a headache, fatigue, or joint pain. Most side effects pass within a couple of days, and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers.[12]
    • In very rare cases, you may have an immediate allergic reaction a vaccine. If this is the case, you will be immediately treated by a healthcare professional. For the most part, allergic reactions are rare and reversible.


  • If you're traveling with young children, you should also make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

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Categories: Allergies and Immunization | Travel