What awaits you on spring break? Sun, breeze, beaches and, if you’re not careful — illness.
You’ve plotted your route, packed your bags and even know the restaurants you want to try. But for all the planning that goes into a vacation, many overlook the importance of getting the appropriate vaccines.
Your next vacation should end with great memories — not a visit to the doctor. To help, we talked to Joseph Gastaldo, MD, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth. With his insight, you can reduce your chances of getting sick on your next trip.
1. Keep Track of Current Travel Notices
Unsurprisingly, health threats change over time across disparate geographic locations. “It’s important to stay up to date on illness in your destination. Six months from now will be different from today,” Gastaldo says. “Go to the CDC website and use the Travelers’ Health tab. When you submit information about yourself and the place you’re traveling, it will provide you with the appropriate health advisories.” With this information, you can decide which vaccines are necessary before you embark on your trip.
2. International Travel Isn’t the Only Time to Get a Vaccine
If you’re going to another country, it’s likely that vaccines crossed your mind. But international travel isn’t the only reason to consider them.
“It’s flu season right now, so we would recommend the flu vaccine for all travelers,” Gastaldo says. “Likewise, parts of Texas and Florida have, at times, had Zika concerns. We would recommend pregnant women reconsider travel to those areas and take the appropriate precautions should they decide to go.”
Of course, it’s easy to miss these health warnings since the destinations are within the country. That’s why it’s important to visit the CDC website before travel — even if it’s domestic.
3. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Gastaldo recommends getting your vaccine at least 10 days before you travel. This is enough time for your body to create the necessary antibodies. That said, it’s almost never too early to get a vaccine. Although some are required every two or three years, it’s unlikely you’re planning travel that early. So, get your vaccines as soon as you have your plane ticket!
4. Vaccines Won’t Protect You from Everything
Even if you have the right vaccines, you aren’t guaranteed immunity. “Vaccines aren’t perfect,” Gastaldo says. “It’s about a 50 percent success rate. Nevertheless, you should still get the recommended vaccines before you travel.”
Similarly, you can’t prevent every illness with a vaccine. For example, Gastaldo recommends increased caution on cruise ships. The reason? Norovirus. This virus is highly contagious and commonly found in cruise ship cafeterias. “We see the norovirus in dense, confined crowds, and hand sanitizer won’t protect you. Your best source of prevention will be lots of soap and water,” Gastaldo advises.
5. Keep a journal if you get sick
In the case that you fall ill, it is incredibly helpful to keep notes. “You should write down who you were with, where you went, all of your symptoms and when you got sick. There is no such thing as too much information,” Gastaldo says. If your doctor has this information, diagnosing your illness becomes much easier.
6. Download the CDC TravWell app
“One of the best tools for planning your trip is the CDC’s Travwell app. It is loaded with incredibly useful health information,” Gastaldo says. This includes the vaccines you need and any health warnings. This powerful resource is the perfect way to track health concerns in upcoming travel destinations. The best part? It’s totally free!
Think you need a vaccine before your next trip? Visit one of our experts at OhioHealth!