After the decision to drop everything and go travel was made, we had to write The List. It began as a high level to do list which has grown organically into a massively detailed inventory of what we need to take care of before leaving it all behind for the adventure of a lifetime. If you ask me, the list is on steroids; it has grown exponentially. One of the sections of said list (yes, it has sections), is medical related tasks.
In the medical section we list things such as: purchasing travel insurance, getting physical exams, dental checkup and my absolute favorite, immunizations—I hate needles. I’m that girl, the one that not only turns away when getting blood drawn, but also closes her eyes, tightly. Yeah, that’s me.
Anyway, both Jason and I made appointments with our general practitioners to get some questions answered about the medical risks of long term travel in foreign countries; they both recommended consulting a travel specialist. Luckily, we found a great one locally in Hoboken; Dr. Messihi certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases.
During our first consultation with Dr. Messihi he interviewed us about where we were planning to visit and for how long. We really didn’t (and still don’t) have a set itinerary but through us telling him the general regions we were planning to travel (Central & South American and Southeast Asia) he was able to suggest several immunizations. This list was right for us, make sure you consult a doctor to find out what is right for you.
An acute viral disease transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes
An acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route
Infection generally occurs through wound contamination and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound
Common worldwide, it is transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces from an infected person
A – An acute infectious disease of the liver, which is most commonly transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated food or drinking water
B – Transmission results from exposure to infectious blood or body fluids containing blood
A disease transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. Domestic pigs and wild birds are reservoirs of the virus
This list made me cringe. Several hours after getting the shots (in both arms) the area started to become sore and mildly swell. This is common and it may last for several days. The soreness made it difficult for me to lift my arms and I could barely wash my hair.
He also advised us to bring Malaria pills (prophylaxis) based on our intentions to spend some time in the jungle. Apparently, there are different types of Malaria and therefore we need different types of prescriptions. Dr. Messihi assigned some homework for us. We were to visit the CDC website and look up each country we are considering visiting to identify what kind of Malaria prescriptions the doctor should prescribe us. As noted in the comment section, the best medicine for Malaria is prevention. Limit your skin’s exposure by covering up and use insect repellent that contains DEET. No pill offers complete protection and all contain side effects. Again, seek a physician for proper advice and always be aware of Malaria symptoms. We are also bringing Cipro (Ciprofloxacin), in case for when, ahem, we get travelers’ diarrhea. Sound like over kill? Maybe it is, but honestly, I’d rather be safe than sorry, even if it does mean I have to have tons of vaccinations and prescriptions.
A word of advice
Be sure to begin this process a couple months before your trip. Some of the immunizations require second and third dosages weeks apart. Also, be sure to shop around for prices and definitely take advantage of your health insurance, if you have one. A few of the immunizations listed above were covered by our employer health insurance which can save you a couple hundred dollars.