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Shots for Travel


Do I need shots before I travel?

Before you travel, make sure you are up to date on all routine shots. These include tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and mumps. It is also good to have a flu shot if you are traveling during flu season. Depending on your age and health, you may also need a pneumonia shot.

When you travel to foreign countries, you may be exposed to other infections. Many of these illnesses can be prevented with vaccines or medicines. At least 2 months before you travel, tell your healthcare provider where you plan to travel. Your provider will let you know what shots or medicines you need. This decision will be based on:

  • the places you plan to visit
  • your age, medical history, and health
  • your exposure risk, for example, whether you will be in rural areas where there are more likely to be mosquitos.

Also find out which countries require proof of vaccination before they will let you visit.

Babies and young children should be up to date with the shots routinely given in their home country before traveling. Check the Centers for Disease Control recommendations for immunizing children, based on where you will be traveling. Your healthcare provider can help you do this.

What special shots or medicines might I need before I travel?

More than a dozen vaccines are available to prevent diseases you might be exposed to during travel to other parts of the world. For example, you might need vaccines against:

  • hepatitis A and B (For a complete series of hepatitis shots you may need to start getting the shots at least 6 months before you travel.)
  • chickenpox
  • pneumonia
  • typhoid fever
  • yellow fever
  • meningitis
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • rabies.

This is just a partial list. It depends on where you are traveling and what outbreaks are going on when you travel.

If you are going to a part of the world where malaria is common, such as Africa, Asia, or South America, you may need to take medicine to prevent malaria. Malaria is a serious, sometimes fatal, disease caused by a parasite. It causes fever and flulike illness. It may also cause anemia and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes). It is usually spread by mosquito bites. Your healthcare provider will prescribe a medicine that you will start taking before you leave. You will keep taking the medicine while you travel in the risk area and for 4 to 6 weeks after you leave the area.

How can I get up-to-date information for the places I plan to visit?

Check with your healthcare provider or your local health department for information. You can also get detailed, up-to-date travel advice for specific countries and diseases from:

  • a travel health clinic
  • the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) via the Traveler's Health hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP or online at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/.

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or traveling with young children, be sure to ask about or look up specific information about your situation.

A number of other travel medicine sites can be found on the Web, such as:


Written by Tom Richards, MD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-21
Last reviewed: 2010-06-01

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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