How to stay healthy abroad – everything you need to know about vaccinations

Nick Trend
Health risks will differ depending on your itinerary - Guido Mieth

Heading somewhere exotic this year? Follow our checklist to make sure you stay healthy

Take good advice

The Scottish NHS travel site (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) gives useful information on vaccinations for specific countries and has up-to-date links to malaria maps and news about outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever. Masta (masta-travel-health.com) also offers an easy-to-use brief specific to your destination. The website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (nathnac.net) is another source of detailed advice. Some GPs run formal travel clinics or employ travel nurses who are up to date on the latest information. The website diabetestravel.org gives useful advice for those with diabetes.

Plan ahead

Make sure you check all this advice and ideally see your doctor or inquire at a specialist clinic at least two months before your holiday. Some jabs need to be done six to eight weeks before you travel, and some vaccines (such as rabies) need up to three visits.

Include the details

When seeking advice, specify the type of trip and describe your itinerary in full. If you are visiting a city for a few days, you are likely to be at far less risk than someone going to more remote, rural areas where medical facilities are scarce and health hazards greater. In Thailand, for example, the risk of contracting malaria in Bangkok will be much lower than in the rural, forested borders with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Compare prices

The following travel vaccines are available free on the NHS if your GP practice is signed up to provide vaccination services: polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio jab), typhoid, hepatitis A and cholera. Others are charged for, and prices vary – though your GP may well charge less than private clinics do. However, private clinics are generally well set up and conveniently located in city centres, so they are worth considering. Try STA Travel (statravel.co.uk), which has six clinics around the country, and Trailfinders Travel Clinic (trailfinders.com), which has a drop-in centre in London with a 20 per cent discount if your jabs are for a trip booked through the company. Other clinics include those run by the Hospital for Tropical Diseases (www.thehtd.org), the London Travel Clinic (020 8261 7552; londontravelclinic.co.uk) and Masta. Note that the vaccination against yellow fever is only given at authorised clinics; see nathnac.net to find the nearest one to you.

Tread carefully

Even if you have been vaccinated, don’t assume you are immune from contracting a disease on your travels. You still need to be careful and take precautions to prevent illness from food, water, insects and animals. This is especially true for malaria, where the only sure protection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. Insect repellent and mosquito nets are crucial ways of reducing the risk.