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Worth A Shot!

Friday, 17.02.2017

Planning to leave the country for a short overseas getaway? Make sure that your entire family is covered with the necessary vaccinations required for travelling.

Making preparations for a holiday out of the country is always exciting, but with a fair amount of stress involved. If it’s a faraway country that you’re visiting with your family for the first time, you’ve no doubt done the necessary homework: from purchasing travel insurance in advance (or checking that your policies are in order); ensuring the validity of your passports; making hotel reservations; learning more about your destination to plan a day-to-day itinerary; and the all-important packing of luggage.

Although the possibility of adversely risking your family’s health and well-being during travel is an unpleasant consideration, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides accidents and emergencies, don’t overlook the probability of contracting an illness during your holiday abroad too. To protect your family from serious diseases, you should definitely look at receiving special travel vaccinations that offer a safeguard to the specific country of travel. Travel vaccinations or travel immunisations can help keep your family healthier during your holiday as they help to create antibodies to protect you from diseases you may be exposed to in those areas.

It’s not unheard of for some travellers to sidestep getting travel vaccinations, because of the perceived cost and inconvenience, or out of complacency that they’re too careful and cautious to get sick. Remember that no one wants to get sick during vacation!  This is a time when you are supposed to be having fun and feeling carefree, not feeling under the weather, and definitely not violently ill. It may also be costly to get the medical care you need—even costlier than that travel vaccination you were hoping to save money on!

A short note about travel insurance—don’t simply assume that it will cover everything urgent and unforeseen that could happen during the period when you’re overseas. Many health insurers regard travel as a personal choice, so adequate medical preparation should be the responsibility of the individual policyholder. While some medications and immunisations may be covered depending on the circumstances, other insurance policies do not cover the shots that you will need to stay healthy while you are abroad. As some travel immunisations are expensive, it is a good idea to learn the costs far in advance of the trip. Remember, it’s still best to discuss your concerns with your insurance provider to know the extent of your coverage.

A necessary precaution
In the event where you are forced to seek medical help at a foreign hospital and clinic, you may be saddled with a huge bill and even unhappy with the quality of care received as well as the outcome. Unless you are willing to take the chance of becoming sick on vacation, and are able to fork out the money for what could have been a preventable healthcare expense, you should obtain the proper travel vaccinations before you go.

Still need convincing why travel vaccinations are imperative, even for a brief getaway? In some cases, you might return from your trip feeling fine, but then find yourself feeling really ill shortly after. This is because some strains of diseases have an incubation period during which symptoms are absent, with the signs surfacing only a few days (sometimes even weeks) later. You may not even be aware of where the disease came from if it takes a while to show up, which can make diagnosis difficult. You could even end up being quarantined if the illness is severe enough. With this in mind, travel vaccinations should be regarded as a necessity more than ever, so that you can reduce the risk of wasting your trip by being sick, or any family members missing days from work or school afterward should they fall ill upon returning home.

Things to consider
Before your holiday overseas, it is critical to gain as much knowledge as you can about your travel destination, especially if it’s a location you are visiting for the first time. It will also prep you better for the consultation with your doctor prior to your departure. Here’s what to take note of:

1. Which country or countries you plan to visit: Some diseases are more common and prevalent in certain parts of the world. Also consider the surrounding environment as some rural, off-the-beaten-track locations could have a lack of sanitation or modern facilities conducive to travel.

2. When you will be travelling: Some illnesses have outbreak periods, especially during certain seasons or weather conditions.

3. Length of your trip: It’s natural that the longer you remain in a certain place, the greater the risk is of exposure to any disease.

4. Your travel arrangements: These include where you plan to stay (is the accommodation reputable?), the size of your travel group (who you will be travelling with mostly), your itinerary schedule (inclusive of attractions or activities that you plan to experience). All these factors could help in making the risk assessment of your trip.

5. Special precautions: Pregnant women or individuals accompanied by infants and/or young children may require more attention regarding travel-related illnesses, depending on the planned destination. More care is also necessary if any travelling member has an existing health condition or is currently on medication. In cases where the individual’s immune system is compromised, extra protection from location-specific diseases may be further necessary as advised by a medical professional. Also make sure that if you are on existing medication, that you have a sufficient supply to keep you safe for the duration of your trip. Planning ahead will prevent the stress associated with having to find a doctor while you are abroad to provide you with refills.

Know your vaccs
For any vaccinations, your doctor should explain the side effects and any risks. Be sure that you ask questions related to these risks so that you know in advance what to expect and what an allergic reaction might look like. If you find that you are having a bad reaction to the shots , you should visit a medical care provider immediately. Serious side effects with modern vaccines are extremely unusual, however. Some people might experience a slight soreness at the point of injection, but this will usually resolve within a day or two.

Prior to embarking on your trip is also a good time to review your family’s vaccination history. Some vaccinations last for several years, so you may not require taking these again if your trip falls within this timeframe. It’s a good idea to keep all your vaccination certificates in a designated folder for easier reference and peace of mind: you could separate them under basic or supplemental immunisations.

So what are…

Basic immunisations? Most developed countries like Singapore would typically require every citizen to receive these standard, or routine immunisations during childhood. This group of vaccines includes vaccinations for measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, and the BCG vaccination.

Supplemental vaccinations? Supplemental vaccinations include vaccinations for cholera, hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, plague, rabies, typhoid, yellow fever and influenza (basically, any shot that doesn’t fall under a basic vaccination).

The following travel vaccinations are required for your destination. In addition to your routine shots, you'll have location-specific shots that help your body avoid the diseases that are more likely in that area of the world. Also, find out about treatments that aren't required, but are strongly recommended for the area to which you're traveling.

Most of the above vaccinations will provide you with the adequate protection against the specified disease, with the exception of influenza. A flu vaccine takes two weeks to produce an effective protective response in the body. Antibodies made by the immune system in response to vaccination with one strain of influenza virus can provide protection against different, but related strains. It is estimated that more than 200 viruses have been identified as responsible for the numerous varieties of cold and flu around the world, so complete protection is simply impossible. It is still better to receive a flu vaccination than none at all if you plan to travel, as this will at least lower the risk of the flu becoming life threatening and from being prolonged (if you do happen to catch a bug, that is—touch wood!).

As for malaria, while there is no known preventative vaccine available currently, antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine are effective in preventing the disease. Malaria is transmitted to humans via mosquito bites, so simple precautions against mosquito bites should also be taken for extra protection.

Consult the Experts
Following is a list of clinics in Singapore that specialise in travel medicine and location-specific immunisation shots anywhere in the world.  It is important for you to visit the doctor months before your trip so that you will take any required medication in the correct time period. Schedule a visit with your doctor about four to six weeks before your trip, since most common vaccinations take at least four weeks to become effective within your body. However, if you've failed to plan ahead and your trip is less than four weeks away, it's still a good idea to get in to see your doctor. You'll still benefit from the shots, and he can also provide a variety of tips on staying healthy while travelling.

Also make sure that if you are on existing medication, that you have a sufficient supply to keep you safe for the duration of your trip. Planning ahead will prevent the stress associated with having to find a doctor while you are abroad to provide you with refills.
 

Health For Life Centre@  Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Tel: 6555 8828

Medical Centre for International Travellers (MCIT) @ Changi General Hospital
Tel: 6850 3333

Parkway Shenton Group of Clinics
Tel:
6227 7777 / Email: pspl.info@parkwaypantai.com 

Raffles Travel Medicine Clinics
Terminal 3| Tel: 6241 8818 / Email: terminal3@rafflesmedical.com  
Raffles Hospital| Tel: 6311 2233 / Email: bugis@rafflesmedical.com 
Raffles Place| Tel: 6534 2900 / Email: rafflesplace@rafflesmedical.com

The Travel Clinic @ Singapore General Hospital
Tel: 6326 6723

Thomson Lifestyle Centre
Tel:
6352 6550, 6352 6559 / Email: lifestyle@thomsonmedical.com

Travellers' Health and Vaccination Clinic (THVC) @ NUH Medical Centre
Tel: 6772 8600, 6772 2083 / Email: travel@nuhs.edu.sg

Travellers' Health and Vaccination Clinic (THVC) @ TTSH Medical Centre
Tel: 6357 2222 / Email: THVC@ttsh.com.sg


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