If you’re going abroad, for a holiday or maybe for a business trip, you should take some time before you go to think about your healthcare needs. There are the obvious things like taking painkillers with you in case of a headache (or maybe a hangover!), medicine for indigestion or diarrhoea, or a sufficient supply of any medicines you are prescribed by your doctor – but you should also check if you need to take any medicines for malaria, or if you require any vaccinations before you go.
Our Online Doctor category has further information on, and online consultations for malaria.
Sometimes travellers are advised to be vaccinated against infectious diseases that are found in other parts of the world, such as Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid. The vaccinations we receive as children help to prevent us from some infectious diseases, such as Tetanus, but not the ones usually found when travelling abroad. However it is recommended that travellers have completed the full UK primary immunisation schedule, and your doctor may recommend a booster dose of a tetanus vaccine if you haven’t had one within the past 10 years.
You should think about this in plenty of time, because most travel vaccinations need to be administered at least 4-6 weeks before you go. We would recommend that you take steps to arrange your vaccinations at least 8 weeks beforehand. However if you don’t have that much time left, it’s still important to contact your doctor’s surgery or travel clinic because some of the vaccinations can still be given closer to your departure time and still be successful.
Do I need travel vaccinations for my trip?
The vaccination requirements for different countries are reviewed regularly, and health professionals including doctors and pharmacists are provided with updated information at least once a year. Some websites might not be updated this often, so if you are going to check online, make sure you are using a reputable site. We would only recommend the following UK-based websites:
National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)
NHS Fit For Travel
These websites also give you information about the malaria tablets which you’ll need (if any), and other health risks or related information about your destination. For example, some countries will require proof of vaccination before they will accept you. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details about any of this.
If your trip is complicated – for example if you are going away for a long period of time, or travelling to lots of different countries each with different recommendations – talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
How do I get my vaccinations? Will I have to pay for them?
First, contact your GP surgery. They will tell you if you are up to date with your standard UK vaccinations, and can give you boosters for these if necessary. Tell them where you’re going and when, and they will confirm the vaccinations you will need.
Some vaccinations are likely to be free on the NHS, including the booster vaccination for diphtheria, polio, and tetanus; typhoid; hepatitis A; and cholera. However you are likely to be asked to pay for others, such as Japanese encephalitis, rabies, yellow fever, or meningitis.
Alternatively, you could contact a local private travel health clinic, who should be able to provide any of the vaccinations you’ll require, but there will be a charge for them all.
Care needs to be taken with travel vaccinations if you are ill with a fever, have allergies (especially to eggs), if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, if your immune system is compromised, or if you are taking certain medicines such as those for chemotherapy. Make sure you tell your doctor or travel clinic if any of these things apply to you.
You should also think about what you’ll be doing while you are at your destination. Your risk of infection will be greater if, for example, you are going away for a long time; if you are going to be in rural areas, or spending a lot of time outdoors; if you are in contact with animals; if you are undertaking medical or aid work; if you are elderly or in poor health; if you are travelling to a high-risk country, and/or during a high-risk season; or if you are camping rather than staying at a hotel.
With the right vaccinations arranged in good time before your trip, you can be sure that your risk of infection is minimised and you can enjoy your time abroad. Plan ahead – and let us know if we can help you in any way.