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If you’re planning on traveling out of the country, getting your plane tickets and packing your suitcase may not be enough.Travel medicine experts strongly recommend that you don’t leave home without also taking the proper health precautions.

Senior TravelIf you’re planning on traveling to certain locations, you should see a travel doctor a month or so before because if any immunizations are recommended it takes time for the body to form antibodies to the vaccines. For example, while the Yellow Fever vaccine needs to be given a minimum of 10 days prior to entering a country that requires it, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine series and rabies pre-exposure series require 2-3 vaccines given over three to four weeks. Doctors are limited in what they can do to protect travelers who wait until the last minute to see them.

Taking precautions is not only important when traveling to countries in the developing world. Certain health issues can also present dangers in countries that are generally not viewed as part of the developing world – such as Israel, where Hepatitis A can be a problem, or the Dominican Republic, which not too many years ago had a polio scare.

Travel medicine doctors will discuss with patients the Centers for Disease Control’s (www.cdc.gov) latest recommendations on vaccines and recent health warnings.

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • In addition to avoiding sink or tap water (or even brushing your teeth with the water) in developing countries, stay away from eating any food sold by street vendors or found on communal tables. Other reminders: only eat fruits with a peel that you can peel yourself, avoid dairy products that are made from unpasteurized milk, stay away from raw food and undercooked meats, and only eat vegetables that are piping hot.
  • Even travelers on cruises can be prey to such illnesses as noroviruses which cause diarrhea. As a result, it is suggested that travelers take alcohol sanitizers with them and wash hands frequently.
  • When traveling to warmer countries stay away from swimming in fresh water lakes and streams that may contain parasites. Well chlorinated pools and saltwater are safe.
  • Travelers are encouraged to pack a kit that includes basic medications for pain and headache relief and diarrhea, bug spray that includes DEET to repel mosquito-born illnesses, and antibiotics for such common problems as gastroenteritis, ear infections, sinusitis, and urinary infections.
The cost for getting vaccinated is not inexpensive – and not covered by insurance. Still, if you’re spending $10,000 to travel, choosing not to spend a few hundred dollars to keep yourself healthy seems penny wise and dollar foolish. It can be far more expensive to get ill and end up in a local hospital.
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