South America offers many interesting destinations and all sorts of exciting opportunities. Mayan ruins, rainforests, white sandy beaches, and interesting cultures are spread liberally around the continent, making it a popular destination for both work and play.
Whether you’re headed to Argentina on business or whether you’re vacationing in Brazil, there are some things you should think about doing to keep healthy. One of the first things you might look into after getting your passport and scheduling your flight is vaccinations.
Most people start off by making sure that their routine vaccinations are up to date. For adults, this might simply mean a tetanus booster. For families traveling to South America, however, it will probably mean scheduling a well visit with your child’s health care provider to make sure he’s current on his shots.
Required Yellow Fever vaccination
According to International Health Regulations, if you want to travel to tropical South America or if you want to travel to some sub-Saharan African countries, you must have the Yellow Fever vaccination.
- Trinidad and Tobago
If you’re travelling to those countries, you may not be able to get past customs unless you’ve received your Yellow Fever vaccination from an authorized vaccination clinic.
Other recommended vaccinations
Talk to your doctor about your travel, and see what vaccinations she recommends that you have before you go. Some of the more common vaccinations your doctor might want you to have can include:
- Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is transmitted via food or water that’s contaminated. It’s the most common disease that can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccination makes it nearly impossible for you to get the disease.
- Hepatitis B. This viral illness can be passed in a number of ways, such as unprotected sex, exposure to blood products, or via contaminated medical instruments. Certain travelers – including those in the Peace Corps, military personnel, and missionaries – are at a higher risk of infection.
- Typhoid Fever. Typhoid Fever is a type of bacterial infection, most commonly found in developing nations. It travels via contaminated foods. If you’re traveling to a developing nation in South America, your health care provider will probably recommend this one.
- Rabies. Rabies comes, of course, through a scratch or bite from an infected animal. Rural areas tend to have higher concentrations of rabid animals, and you might get an anti-rabies vaccination before traveling to South America.
Your doctor may recommend some or all of these, or even none, depending on where you’re traveling in South America.
Timing of your vaccinations
Getting your vaccinations ahead of travel can be important, but you also need to know that it can take a long time. For example, the Hepatitis A vaccine is usually given as a series of treatments over a six month period. It’s essential that you plan your travel ahead and start your vaccination regimen early enough to finish by the time you travel.
Additional health preparation for South American Travel
There are some other conditions you might experience while traveling in South America, and some steps you can take, along with vaccines, to keep the worst from happening. Some of these include:
- Malaria. This disease is spread by mosquitos, and it’s fairly common in South America. There are a number of medications you can take that will help prevent malaria, or help you recover if you do contract malaria, while you’re traveling in South America.
- Travelers’ Diarrhea. Severe diarrhea can occur when traveling simply from drinking water that has harmless bacteria, but bacteria that are different from the ones where you’re from. Talk to your doctor about a prophylactic treatment for diarrhea.
- Dengue fever. Like malaria, this one passes through mosquitos. There is no available medication or vaccination that will prevent it, however. Mosquito repellant is probably the best way to avoid it.
- Schistosomiasis. Sometimes when you swim in a body of fresh water you can contract this parasitic infection. Many bodies of fresh water in South America post the risk of this illness. Your doctor can provide advice and medication that will help with treatment if you should contract this disease.
Protecting your health while traveling to South America is critical to your enjoyment of the experience, and to your making it back safe and sound. Talk to your health care professionals today about the vaccines you might need, as well as other medications that might be useful.