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March 11, 2010

Travel Immunizations: What You Really Need in South America



By WorldNomads
03/11/2010

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No matter what country you're from and how experienced a traveler you are, the bottom line is you probably need to get some immunizations before you do any traveling to developing countries. We asked our adventure friends around the world what they thought and below are their recommendations for travel to South America.

Travelers to South and Central America should get the minimum vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including:
- Hepatitis A & B
- Typhoid
- Yellow Fever: This vaccine is always a good idea if you will be in the jungle since there are periodic outbreaks and deaths. Some countries require it for entry.
- Rabies: Yes, rabid animals can bite you even in the most cosmopolitan city and, once bitten, you could die unless you received the rabies vaccination in advance.
- Flu Shots: Flu Season in South America begins in June. If you are traveling during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, you may be exposed to circulating influenza—both seasonal and H1N1.
- Malaria medication might also be recommended depending on the country.

Immunization Tips:
Your once in a lifetime trip should not be hampered by bringing home an unwanted souvenir of yellow fever or other malady. With proper preparation, you can maintain your health and remain at ease for traveling any where in South America.

Aswin Kedia from Vacapedia shares his tips of what to consider before getting your all important jabs.

Check Immunization Records: Verify your previous immunizations and if they meet the routine requirements for the area(s) you plan to visit. Typically this should include measles and DPT shots. A require a booster shot may be needed if it has been a long duration since your most recent shot.

Visit a Medical Professional: A doctor who specializes in travel medicine can enlighten you about the recommended and required vaccinations needed for a specific country. Recommended vaccinations are not mandatory but required vaccinations are. Your doctor should also be knowledgeable of all recent notifications or health risk warnings issued by the World Health Organization.

Medications: Individuals should contemplate taking prescribed medication, such as anti-malaria drugs in order to avoid potential medical problems.

Timing: Immunizations recommended and required to prevent unwanted illness need to be injected in advance of your trip. Plan on having your vaccinations completed several weeks before your departure to South America. Some vaccinations require a series of shots such as those used for Hepatitis B.

Considerations: Learn as much as possible about the possible health risks and preventions for the country you plan to visit. For detailed information in the different geographical locations of South America, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South America Safety Tips:
In addition to getting the proper immunizations, Christy Grimste from Educators Overseas offers these tips for staying safe in South America.

Check the Water: You should assume that local tap water isn't safe to drink, even in the nicest hotel in town and even if someone tells you it is. So, while brushing your teeth is probably OK as long as you don't swallow (ask local expats though, just to be sure), only drink bottled water or purified tap water. To resolve this bring along iodine tables and portable water filters.

Peel Your Produce: Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables and sold on the side of the road are also suspect. No matter how beautiful that apple looks, you're better off peeling it first!

Kick the Bacteria: The first few weeks in any new country will likely bring some stomach discomfort as your digestive system adapts to a level of cleanliness you might not have been used to. For this, an excellent natural remedy is yogurt, whose live active yogurt cultures will help kill off the bad bacteria in your system.

Practice Sun Safety: Even on overcast days, the sun can be stronger that you think. Sunblock and sunglasses are the best protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.

Ward Off the Mozzies: Some locations in South America are notorious for infected mosquitoes. To protect yourself from bites, always wear lightweight long sleeve shirts, long pants and a hat when venturing outdoors. Deet can be purchased in your neighborhood pharmacy and acts as a repellent.

Altitude Sickness: This can range from a simple and annoying headache to a life threatening crisis. Altitude sickness is more common at altitudes of 2500m (8200ft) or more and usually involve a rapid ascent. Very fit hikers, car travel and stepping off a plane are great examples of "rapid ascent" which is considered gaining more than 900m (2970ft) in a single day. The best prevention for altitude sickness is a slow ascent and the best treatment is to descend the mountain immediately. Lastly, remember the golden rule of altitude that states "any illness or headache experienced above 2500m should be considered altitude sickness until proven otherwise". More detailed info on altitude sickness here.

Useful Links:
Jim Sano at Geographic Expeditions also advises checking out these sites/documents that provide you with a sense of what to do to stack the deck to prevent health issues and address unforeseen problems in destinations where access to high quality western medical care may be limited:
- Regional specific maps for malaria prophylaxis and yellow fever immunization
- Personal medical kit recommendations
- Directory for travel medicine specialists via the International Society of Travel Medicine

Read more stories from WorldNomads.com to help keep you traveling safely. WorldNomads.com provides travel insurance and travel safety services to residents in over 150 countries, making it an essential part of every adventurous traveler's journey.


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Related Topics: South America Travel · Travel Tips

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Great tips. Very useful to-do list before traveling.

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