Whether it’s that dream holiday that has been years in the making, that visit with family and friends overseas or simply an excuse to escape the chill at home, we Australians love to travel. The last thing we want, then, is for something to ruin our trip. Forget about those unfortunate tan lines or questionable clothing choices, the one thing that will put a dampener on a trip faster than anything else is illness.

Unfortunately, getting sick while enjoying life overseas is not uncommon, with travellers having around a 50% chance of getting some travel related illness according to Travel Clinics Australia. There are steps you can take to reduce this number, however, and one of the main ones is ensuring you are properly vaccinated.

Why is vaccination important?

Vaccinations are important to support the body in building an immunity to certain illnesses or diseases. This becomes especially important when travelling to countries that have different health threats than here in Australia. What is a rare occurrence here, could be more prevalent in your holiday destination, meaning international travel to some countries may present more health risks than others. By getting vaccinated, you not only build up immunity and protect yourself, but you also lessen the chances of becoming ill and infecting others.

Developing countries and rural areas are particularly known for their increased level of risk, so it is important to do thorough research on every country you plan to visit to determine what vaccinations may be required.

Important: Some countries require proof that a traveller has received vaccinations against particular diseases before permitting them to enter the country.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) does recommend routine vaccinations for all travellers, which include:

  • Tetanus
  • Rubella
  • Whooping cough
  • Diphtheria
  • Varicella
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Mumps

There are also additional vaccines recommended for those at high risk such as the elderly, asthma sufferers, diabetes sufferers and those with respiratory or cardiac conditions. These extra vaccines include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningococcal c
  • Influenza

Other vaccinations may also be recommended depending on the country you are visiting, the duration of your trip, your mode of transport, diet and other factors.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and a visit to your medical professional is always recommended to ensure you get the right advice.

Plan ahead

Just like you take the time to research and plan the amazing activities and accommodation you want to enjoy whilst overseas, you should take the time to properly cater to your health needs before travel. Getting all of those records together and receiving the vaccinations you need will take some time, so be sure to start organising early.

It is recommended that travellers see their GP or travel clinic at least 4–6 weeks before their departure. This allows the vaccines enough time to take effect and allows the proper dosage to be administered as some vaccines require more than 1 dose. If you plan on travelling sooner than 4 weeks, it is still a good idea to visit your GP to get some advice.

Your primary health professional may not have the vaccines you require, which means you will need to find a clinic that does.

Vaccinations don’t cover everything

There are some infectious diseases that will not be covered with vaccinations and extra precautions are advised. Many of these diseases, such as gastroenteritis and dysentery, are contracted by the food and water you drink, while others, like dengue fever and malaria, can be spread by insects. Proper personal hygiene, bottled water, the right insect repellent and other precautions lessen the chance of becoming infected.  

There are other conditions that you may need to consider depending on where you plan to travel and the type of activities you plan to engage in. Altitude sickness is just one example, which is why it is good to have a chat to your doctor about everything you have planned so they can provide tips and advice.

Take the right supplies

Even for those who do take the time to get all of the necessary vaccinations, it is still a good idea to create or buy your own medical kits to take with you. Some items you may want to include in these kinds of kits can be medication for treating fever, electrolyte drinks such as Gastrolyte, dressings, sunscreen, travel sickness tablets, anti-diarrheal medication and hand sanitiser. Other items may also be added depending on your destination such as water purification tablets.

For those travelling with children or the elderly, you may need to be more extensive with your supplies and include things like a spare set of prescription glasses, extra prescription medications, doctor’s letter detailing current medical conditions, and a list of medical contacts.

It looks worse than it is

It might seem like there is so much to plan and numerous diseases to prevent, but the process is made as simple as possible by medical staff. A little bit of planning goes a long way and helps to ensure that amazing trip isn’t hindered by a preventable illness. For more information on vaccinations and health advice for the country you plan to visit, make an appointment with your primary health care professional today.