Holiday vaccines: Jabs you need before a vacation

PHOTO: Holiday vaccines: Jabs you need before a vacation

The school holidays are coming up and you may have booked a family vacation with your children, or they may have signed up for overseas school trips.

It may be exciting to plan holidays, but the traveller should be aware of health risks as well.

Travelling to exotic and far-flung locations puts people at higher risk of getting sick or catching an infection, from flying in a crowded airplane to drinking unsanitary water and getting bitten by mosquitoes.

Senior staff nurse Asannachiyaar Chinnathamby, from the travel clinic at Singapore General Hospital, gives some timely advice as the June holidays draw near.

1. Common illnesses

The most commonly encountered illnesses when people travel are diarrhoea, insect bites and respiratory tract infections.

Hence, the general advice is aimed at preventing insect bites, such as using a mosquito spray, and observing food and water safety guidelines.

2. Vaccinations

The type of vaccination needed will depend on the traveller's itinerary.

Some vaccines, such as for yellow fever, are required before one can travel to certain countries in South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The meningococcal and influenza vaccines are necessary, for example, if you are going on the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Getting vaccinated against influenza is recommended for other travellers as well. Vaccines for rabies, typhoid and hepatitis A are also advised.

3. Hygiene

Safe eating is important. This means eating cooked food and avoiding ice in drinks and salads as certain countries may have poor water sanitation.

Maintain good hand hygiene. Wash your hands before eating and avoid touching animals as this increases the risk of rabies.

4. When to get help

Seek medical attention immediately if you have diarrhoea and a high fever of above 38.5 deg C, bloody diarrhoea, are travelling in a malaria-prone area and sick with a fever or flu-like illness or have been bitten or scratched by an animal.

This article was published on May 15 in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times. Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to for more stories.