Imagine the sparkling Carribean sea. The fine Phuket beach sand that gently exfoliates your skin. Or how about the exotic jungles of Borneo? Don’t these sound like perfect getaways from the city?
However, if you are unlucky, your well-deserved vacation can end up becoming a dreadful staycation marked by high fever and joint/muscle aches.
When you travel, you just don't know what kind of diseases can attack you from out of the blue. So play it safe and read on to find out about essential travel vaccines that can protect you so you can enjoy your holiday.
What are travel vaccinations?
Before going on a vacation, I suggest you get adequate vaccinations. Travel vaccines are shots that make you immune or protected against common and serious diseases found at your destination .
These vaccines are made of weakened or "dead" viruses which are used to "train" your body's immune system to recognise and fight better against disease-causing microbes.
Not only are these travel vaccines safe and protect you effectively, they also can prevent you from spreading the diseases by bringing them back home.
Types of travel vaccines
There are 3 main types of travel vaccines:
- Routine vaccines  – For both children and adults. These vaccinations should also be up to date.
- Recommended vaccines – Protect you when you are in areas with a high risk of infection.
- Required vaccines – e.g. Yellow fever vaccines, when travelling to certain parts of Africa and South America.
Good news: Some vaccines, like the Hepatitis B vaccine, can be paid for using Medisave.
Which jabs to take
So, which travel vaccine do you need before you travel? Here is a list of some common travel vaccines:
How it spreads
Food & water
Bodily fluids and blood
Food & water
Developing countries in e.g. South America, South Asia, South-East Asia 
Rural areas in Asia
Depending on activities and locations
Saliva from infected animals
Most likely in the United States e.g. bats, coyotes, foxes, racoons & skunks
Long-term travellers and those who are likely to be in contact with animals
Sub-Saharan Africa, South America
Travellers to countries with risk of Yellow fever transmission
Do visit your doctor at least a month prior to your trip to find out which vaccines you need. Note that most shots may be done in a series, and many travel immunisations will take time to work over a period of days or weeks.
My travel plans
You may never know when a disease will strike. Thus, you should learn how to take preemptive action and be familiar with your itinerary in order to stay healthy during your trip.
Regardless of whether you will be joining a guided tour or going on your own, be sure to take note of:
- The countries you will be visiting, especially whether you will be visiting urban or rural places
- How long you will be travelling for
- The time of the season
- The mode of travel
- The food and water you consume
- Your planned activities
- Accommodation conditions e.g. air-conditioning, camping etc.
Then again, it all comes down to whether you want to get vaccinated. Some people don’t get vaccinated due to several reasons, like allergies or other medical conditions.
But do remember that you are more prone and vulnerable to diseases without proper preparation and vaccines.
Off on vacation
At last, you are all set for your vacation! You may have gotten your recommended vaccinations, but what else do you still need to look out for?
Here are the steps you should take to protect yourself while travelling:
- Firstly, look up relevant health information of your destination. Check websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Practise basic hygiene. For example, wash or sanitise your hands before you eat
- Use insect repellent to prevent insect bites
- Keep away from animals, especially wild animals
- Avoid contact with bodily fluids
- Know how and where to get medical care 
- Lastly, select safe transportation
In conclusion, be sure to tell your doctor about your travels beforehand so that he can guide you on the necessary preparation.
And if you return feeling unwell, you may need to see your doctor.
Enjoy your holiday!
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Dr Jipson Quah obtained his Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore and has since become a general practitioner with many minor surgeries under his belt. His patients come from all age groups and greatly benefit from his holistic approach to medicine. While undergoing his residency training at the Division of Pathology of Singapore General Hospital, he gained an interest in Anatomical Pathology, Cytology, Molecular Pathology and Forensic Pathology. He is especially interested in creating connections between pathologists, speciality clinicians, and patients to obtain well-rounded balanced views of diagnoses.
Read more of Dr Jipson Quah's QnA here.