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Should you get travel vaccines?

It’s vacation season—the perfect time of year to frolic in the waters of an exotic beach.  But if you are planning to travel abroad this summer, do you need to get any vaccines?  Vikash Modi, M.D., a family medicine physician at Piedmont, offers the following recommendations:

1. Make sure your regular vaccines are updated. “You should receive a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (TDAP) shot every 10 years,” says Dr. Modi. “This will protect you from the more mainstream illnesses that you can catch domestically or abroad. Make sure that you have also received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine because we are seeing more outbreaks of those illnesses abroad. It’s also important to stay current on your flu shot.”

Dr. Modi recommends verifying that you are up to date on your Hepatitis A and B vaccine if you plan to visit Latin America, Southeast Asia, or certain parts of Europe.

“Most Americans have received those vaccinations as a child,” Dr. Modi says. “But if you're unsure, it's always a good idea to have a doctor conduct an antibody titers test to make sure you are immune.”

2. Consider additional vaccines when traveling to developing countries. “I generally recommend the malaria vaccine or typhoid fever vaccine when traveling to developing countries,” says Dr. Modi. “If you are doing adventure travel or may be exposed to animal bites, I usually recommend a rabies vaccine as well.”

3. Try to get vaccines a month ahead of your trip. Most travel clinics recommend that you get vaccinated at least two weeks before you travel, but Dr. Modi suggests getting them a month in advance.

“The vaccine should kick in pretty quickly once you've had the shot,” says Dr. Modi. “But if you have a bad reaction to it, we don't want you traveling abroad right afterwards. It’s best to be treated by your primary care doctor if you are suffering from a reaction.”

4. Remember to pack preventative medications. “I send a lot of my patients who are traveling abroad with proactive medication to help protect them while they're traveling,” says Dr. Modi.  “Sometimes you may encounter unclean water, undercooked food or food that your body is not used to.”

Dr. Modi recommends packing:

  • Antacids like Tums, Rolaids or Zantac for gastrointestinal infections
  • Pepto-Bismol, Maalox or Immodium to combat traveler’s diarrhea
  • Amotion sickness patch or nausea medicine like Zofran to prevent nausea and vomiting if you are prone to motion sickness

“On occasion, I send travelers with a proactive antibiotic that could help treat a gastrointestinal infection or other types of infections that you can pick up while traveling,” he says.

5. Monitor travel vaccine recommendations on the CDC’s website. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a wonderful website which doctors are referencing as well,” says Dr. Modi.  “You can literally type in any country in the world, and the CDC website will direct you to which vaccines are recommended. The CDC website and local tourism board also post seasonal or new travel recommendations regarding issues like Zika virus.”

Check out our 10 tips for a safe, healthy vacation

Dr. Modi practices at Piedmont Physicians Brookhaven, located at 3925 Peachtree Road Northeast, Suite 300, Brookhaven, GA 30319. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Modi or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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