You've worked hard all year. So has your spouse. Your children say they've studied hard -- and you're a good parent so you believe them, particularly because their grades are good.
Now, it's time to relax, time to take your first vacation of the year as the holiday season begins and the year comes to close. This upcoming vacation is also your first-ever trip abroad with your children. Your family just can't wait to get away from work and school.
Relaxing completely, though, before you begin your trip is a mistake, because perfectly healthy Americans are susceptible to getting sick when they travel abroad, according to The New York Times' Travel Abroad In-Depth Report.
According to the report:
An estimated 15 to 45 percent of short-term travelers experience a health problem associated with their trip ... This percentage is higher in travelers to developing countries. A traveler can reach virtually any place in the world within 36 hours, which is less than the incubation period for most infectious diseases ... Respiratory infections, such as influenza and colds, develop in 10 to 25 percent of travelers. Women traveling to the tropics are at high risk for urinary tract infections.
The risk of getting sick while traveling abroad is so high that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States government's public health institute, urges Americans to talk to their doctor before they travel. The CDC also urges all travelers to make sure that their "routine" vaccinations are still effective before they travel. It lists five routine vaccines -- chickenpox, diptheria-tetanus-pertussis, measles-mumps-rubella, polio, and the annual flu shot.
Travelers should also get other vaccinations depending on which nation they're going to. Generally, people traveling to economically-advanced nations need fewer vaccinations than people traveling to developing nations. Some travelers to Canada and England, for example, should get the hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and rabies vaccines, while most travelers to The Bahamas should get the hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines and some travelers should get the hepatitis B, rabies, and yellow fever vaccines.
The CDC recommends that you get the necessary vaccines four to six weeks before you travel abroad, but some travel clinics are very accommodating to everyone who hasn't departed yet regardless of whether they made last-minute travel plans, were too busy to consult a doctor, or just weren't aware of the importance of vaccines.
"We always prefer that travelers plan for these trips well in advance, but setting appointments is easy and last-minute appointments are possible," said Dr. Marina Gafanovich about the New York clinic where she works.
Gafanovich added that she and her colleagues also conduct physicals on the same day as the vaccinations, advise travelers with serious health issues such as heart disease and hypertension on the precautions they should take before and during traveling, and investigate each traveler's destination so they can provide more vaccinations and medicine if they're needed.
Investigating the public health situation of each destination is crucial because it's constantly changing.
"Doctors in Western countries are now seeing infectious diseases never before encountered in their regions," according to The New York Times Travel Abroad-In-Depth Report.
While many people are traveling abroad for sheer pleasure during the holiday season, some people are traveling for religious reasons. Some travelers to Vatican City might need to get the hepatitis A, hepatitis B and rabies vaccines, while most travelers to Israel should get the hepatitis A and polio vaccines, and some travelers to Israel should get the hepatitis B, rabies, and typhoid vaccines, according to the CDC.
If you're traveling abroad in December, you might need to act quickly to arrange your vaccinations, but now is the perfect time to plan your vaccinations if you are going to Sochi, Russia, for the Feb. 7-Feb. 23, 2014 Winter Olympics. Most travelers to Russia should get the hepatitis A vaccine, while some should get the hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies vaccines, according to the CDC, which also offers extensive advice to people going to the Winter Olympics.
If you're going to attend the June 12-July 13, 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, you have plenty of time to plan your vaccinations and other medical exams. The CDC recommends that most travelers to Brazil get vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid, while some travelers should get vaccinated for hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, and yellow fever.
Interestingly, people who are traveling abroad to visit friends or relatives might need more vaccinations than other travelers, according to the CDC report "Visiting Friends or Relatives Overseas." The report says that what it calls VFR travelers are more susceptible to some diseases because they eat local food in friends and relatives' homes and are in a foreign nation for more days than regular tourists.
"VFR travelers are eight to 10 times as likely to be infected with malaria as tourists, and in recent years, several VFR travelers have died of malaria after they returned to the United States," according to the report, which added that American relatives are susceptible to getting sick via contaminated food.
Anyone who wants more information on vaccinations should contact the CDC website -- http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/traveler-information-center -- or phone the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).
The CDC also has websites specifically for people seeking information about travel notices (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices) and people who want help finding a clinic that will consider vaccinating them (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/find-clinic).