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After all, I didn’t spend five energy-drink fuelled years killing myself to get a Degree and Masters in Pharmacy to NOT use it on my blog. I am, to an extent, a licensed drug dealer and I intend to share the knowledge. Let’s get down to the facts about pricks and pills. Here’s my ultimate guide to travel vaccinations and anti malarials.
First things first, where are you going?
Once you know where you’re off to, take a trip to your local pharmacy and ask a pharmacist what vaccines you will need. They will have a chart listing all vaccinations needed for each country and region. Failing this, check on www.nathnac.org. For example, for Indonesia I will, at a bare minimum, need Tetanus, Diptheria, Hep A and Typhoid.
Then all that’s left to do is make an appointment with your local travel nurse. Remember to make this appointment as early as possible, at least five weeks before travelling.
Now, for a bit more info about those needles they’re jabbing into you. Let’s get started with the VACCINATIONS part of my guide to travel vaccinations and anti malarials.
Yellow fever-covers you for LIFE (it used to be 10 year). Another reason to dislike mosquitoes, they carry this bad boy. You will need proof of Yellow Fever vaccination when entering certain countries. Make sure you carry this with you when travelling.
Hep A– This is a course of two jabs. Usually the 2 are about 6months apart. Once you’ve had both you’re covered for around 25years.
Hep B – This is a three jab course, though you will be fairly well covered once you’ve had the first two. In fact I was supposed to get my third before I moved to England but I missed my appointment. Hep B is mainly a risk if you’re getting any tattoos or being sexually active while away. Anything with bodily fluids pretty much. Let’s be honest, bodily fluids will always be exchanged while travelling. Protect yourself!;)
Diptheria, Polio and Tetanus -This is a combined vaccination. It lasts you for 10years.
Japanese Encephalitis-More for long stay travellers hanging around rice fields. It is another 2 jab course. The second is administered 28days after the first.
**Rabies**– A three dose course. The second dose is given 7 days after the first. The third is given 14-21 days after the second shot. Rabies can be transmitted from infected mammals (think bats, dogs and monkeys) through a bite, a scratch or even a lick. If you do get bitten, wash the wound thoroughly with bottled water and get yourself to the nearest hospital ASAP. I know this one is expensive, but it is so very worth it. If you get infected and you have had the vaccines, all you need is 2 further vaccines while in hospital. However, if you get infected and have NOT had the vaccines you will need rabies immunoglobulin injections which are not often available in many parts of the world. Worse still, if it is avavilable it is made from blood donations which may not have been screened for nasty things like HIV or Hep B. In addition to the immunoglobulin treatment you will need another five rabies vaccines. NOT COOL. Pay for the vaccinations.
So that concludes the vaccinations section of my ultimate guide to travel vaccinations and anti malarials. NOW, onto the malaria protection!
Once again, know where you are going. Is it a malaria zone? How long will you be in the malaria zone? You will need to know this before you can obtain a prescription.
Ok, this is not generally my mantra, but when it comes to mosquitoes it definitely is. Bite avoidance is very important. Here’s some helpful tips.
• Garlic DOES NOTHING! Don’t bother, it could ruin your chances with that hot guy/girl in the opposite bunk and it’s not going to protect you from any mosquitoes.
• Use a mosquito net. Bring your own if you can, though some hostels will have their own.
• Get a room above the third floor. Sounds crazy, but it works.
• Wear loose, long-sleeved clothing. Especially at night. Easier said than done in the heat of a tropical country, I know.
• Wear light colours. Mosquitoes are little goths at heart, they are attracted to dark clothes.
• TRY and keep windows closed. If you can get a room with A/C this will dramatically reduce your chances of being bitten. Again, easier said than done in some countries.
• DEET 50%. Reapply often. Don’t apply to broken skin. Be careful with it around valuable items. My sister accidentally got some on her head torch in Egypt and it melted the plastic.
• Do not wear perfume or aftershave. Who doesn’t love the smell of good old-fashioned sweat anyways?!
Despite what Cheryl Cole did for it’s image, malaria is not cool. Take anti-malarial medication if it is recommended. Anti malarials are not 100% effective. However, they’re definitely more effective than not taking anything. Here’s the main players.
Mefloquine (Larium) –NEVER EVER under ANY circumstances take Larium. This is the devil drug. In the UK it is still on the list of useable anti-malarials but in most countries it is no longer used due to its extreme and frequent side effects. That is all you need to know about this drug. If your nurse suggests this one, slap her. The only exception to this is if you are planning on LIVING for a long period of time in a malaria zone. But generally, AVOID!
Atovaquone250mg/Proguanil 100mg (Malarone)– This is the best, though it is costly. But, really, isn’t your life worth splashing out on just this once? It has the least side effects of all the anti-malarials. Another bonus with this guy is that you only have to take it 1-2 days before arrival in malaria zone. The others are at least one week after leaving the malaria zone. Just make sure you take with food or a milky drink. I’ve used Malarone a few times before and never had a problem.
Doxycycline– A fine little capsule, but generally I’d avoid this. While taking this drug you need to keep yourself out of the sun as it can cause sun-sensitivity leading to blistering and burning. This proves kind of difficult and depressing if travelling in a nice sunny country. Also, you can’t lie down within 30mins of taking it. Inconvenient.
Chloroquine and Proguanil; Normally taken together. The dosing regimen is rather complicated. The only upside to these is that you can buy them in your local pharmacy. No prescription needed.
If you do get bitten, most bites will clear up themselves in a week or two. Make sure you keep them clean and as dry as possible. Try not to scratch the tops off them. You can take an antihistamine (chlorphenamine, cetirizine or loratadine) to help with the itchiness/redness. A mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone 1% cream can be applied to the bite twice daily to reduce the inflammation and help calm the skins reaction. If the bite blisters, weeps or becomes open and sore, get your ass to a doctor and get yourself some antibiotics. Usually flucloxacillin is used for skin infections such as infected bites. Do this early, otherwise you’ll end up with scars, or worse.
**IMPORTANT**; Malaria basically feels like you have the flu, so if you are suffering from flu-like symptoms after visiting a malaria zone make sure you inform your doctor. Usually the symptoms develop within the first 3 months, but it can take up to a year.
So there you have it, my ultimate guide to travel vaccinations and anti malarials. I hope this was helpful! HAPPY TRAVELS 🙂
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