There’s one major checklist item I need to complete soon. It’s not pleasant, but it’s definitely an important one, so let’s talk about travel vaccinations and medication whilst on the road.
We’re lucky enough in the UK to have a public healthcare system. The good thing about the NHS (National Health Service) is that they offer a number of vaccinations for free, as part of general healthcare. This can be extremely useful as the cost of getting vaccinated in this country can really add up, depending on which countries you intend to visit and what exotic travel bugs you might encounter there.
The process is relatively easy – it took me about two weeks to get an appointment to see a nurse, although saying that, they called me up this morning to tell me my nurse was ill and I’d have to wait another 1.5 weeks for the next appointment (unlucky!). I guess the lesson there is to plan ahead, especially if you’re going to need multiple booster jabs for diseases like Hepatitis A. If you’re in a bit of a rush, an alternative would be to visit a travel clinic such as MediCentre to get an on-the-day appointment. You will however, have to pay for what might be standard, free of charge shots on the NHS.
At this moment in time, the following travel vaccinations are available for free on the NHS:
- polio (given as a tetanus, diphtheria and polio booster);
- first dose of Hepatitis A; and
Whilst my travel plans are by no means set in stone, the countries I currently have in my sights, along with the recommended vaccinations are as follows:
- Australia and New Zealand – none
- Vanuatu – Hepatitis A
- Fiji – Diphtheria; Hepatitis A
- Cambodia – Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid
- Laos – Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid
- Vietnam – Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid
- Thailand – Hepatitis A; Tetanus
- India – Hepatitis A; Poliomyelitis; Tetanus; Typhoid
For reference, recommended vaccinations for tourists to Malaysia are hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Now this is a little strange for me as I’m Malaysian and have lived in Malaysia for about half of my life. I’ve never really worried myself about getting vaccinated for the aforementioned diseases, so I’m wondering whether I really need to worry about it now? I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry however, so I’m probably going to go ahead with the hepatitis A booster and DPT jabs. I am already vaccinated for yellow fever and typhoid following my trip to Kenya last year.
If you would like to check what vaccinations are recommended for each country, check this link out: NHS Fit for Travel. Also, one money saving tip you might want to think about is getting vaccinated outside of your home country where it might be cheaper (for example in Asia), when you are already on the road.
The only one I realistically have to think about are malaria pills. I’m one of those people who you want to stand next to in a Malaysian jungle. Why? Because mosquitoes just love me. I’m just a natural magnet for them. Malaria pills are therefore a big necessity for me. How many I need will depend on:
- Whether I decide to go to India and if so, for how long; and
- Where in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam I decide to visit – check out the CDC Malaria Map for identified areas of malaria risk.
I’ve already tried Malarone with no significant side effects during the Kenya trip last year (the trick is to take them just before bedtime), so that’ll be the one I choose if I decide I need some. The difficulty will be trying to find some when I’m on the road, assuming doctors’ prescriptions are necessary to obtain them like they are in the UK.
Over-the-Counter Medical Kit
I don’t generally take medication, even when I’m ill. I can’t even remember the last time I ate a painkiller! However, being ill in your own bed and being ill in a foreign country with no one to take care of you are two completely different matters, so I’ll be bringing along a few precautionary items.
- Panadol (painkiller)
- anti-histamine tablets
- general antibiotic tablets
- charcoal tablets
- plasters / band-aids
- antiseptic ointments for cuts
- antiseptic wipes
- antibacterial gel
- Mozi-Guard (insect repellant)
- anti-itch cream
In the interest of trying to keep my backpack as light as possible, I’m hoping this will suffice!
Have you ever had to plan your travel medical kit? Do you think I’m missing anything?