Over the years we’ve offered many tours to southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India, and we always get asked, “Should I get shots before the tour?” Our response is always the same, “We recommend that you check with a travel clinic.”
It’s not that we’re dodging your question. It’s simply that we’re not experts and, because we want you to be well-informed, we’d rather you spoke with an expert before you travel. Yes, we do have an idea of some of the potential health risks in these countries, but it’s a situation that often changes. As medical situations around the world develop, travel medical clinics receive constant updates and know much more than we do. Think the present Ebola crisis in Africa.
Before you visit the clinic take a look at your tour itinerary. Telling the doctor that you’re visiting Thailand isn’t specific enough because the risk of diseases such as malaria are slim in Bangkok, but much higher if you’re up north or out in the jungle. I know when I visited a clinic, I was asked for specifics about where I would be traveling, so go prepared. Once the doctor has told you what shots are recommended, it’s up to you to weigh the risks and decide whether or not you want to receive all the suggested treatments. No one is going to force you to get them and some, such as the medication for malaria, can potentially have nasty side effects. On the other hand, getting malaria could seriously mess up the rest of your life! One shot I’ve never regretted getting is the Twinrix shot for Hepatitis A and B – that’s something you can catch even here at home!
If you decide against medication for malaria and other mosquito-borne disease, there are other preventative measures you can take. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use lots of insect repellent and sleep under mosquito netting.
The only way to make a well-informed decision about your health before traveling is to gather all the necessary information and go from there. And that means speaking to an expert!
Innoculation: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr