If you are a last-minute business traveler, returning to your home country for a family emergency, or traveling internationally on short notice for another reason, you can still plan for safe and healthy travel.
Even if you are leaving soon, a quick visit to a travel medicine provider can help protect you at your destination. Ideally, you should see a health care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your international trip to get needed vaccines or medicines. But there may be options for getting the vaccines and medicines you need, even if you’re a last-minute traveler. Your doctor or nurse will also counsel you on other ways to reduce your risk of illness or injury during travel.
The vaccines you need will depend on your destination and planned activities. You can search CDC’s Destination pages for a list of vaccines you might need for your trip. Many travel vaccines require multiple shots or take time to become fully effective. But some multiple-dose vaccines (like hepatitis A) can still give you partial protection after just one dose. Some can also be given on an “accelerated schedule,” meaning doses are given in a shorter period of time.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required to enter some countries. This proof is not valid until 10 days after you get the vaccine because of the time it takes for the medicine to protect you, so you may need to change your travel plans if you can’t get the vaccine soon enough.
CDC recommends all travelers be up-to-date on routine vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and influenza. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what vaccines are needed for your trip.
If there is a risk of malaria at your destination, your health care provider may prescribe medicine to prevent malaria. Some drugs must be started 1—2 weeks before you go, while others only need to be started 1—2 days before you go. Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know if you’re leaving soon, so they can prescribe the right medicine for you. You will still need to take steps to prevent mosquito bites during travel, since malaria drugs are not 100% effective and they don’t protect against other diseases spread by mosquitoes (like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya).
Prevent Illness and Injury
Not all diseases can be prevented with vaccines or pills. There are simple but important precautions you should take to avoid getting sick abroad:
- Wear EPA-registered insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, which can spread serious diseases.
- Reduce your exposure to germs by washing your hands often with soap and clean water (if available) or use hand sanitizer (made with at least 60% alcohol).
- Be careful about what you eat and drink. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases.
- Avoid stray, wild, or frightened animals. In addition to the risk of rabies, all animal bites carry a risk of bacterial infection.
- Pack a travel health kit with your health items and supplies, including your prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Talk with your health care provider about other precautions you should take, based on your destination and circumstances. If you’re planning a trip on short notice, don’t put off making an appointment with a travel medicine provider. Even if you’re leaving tomorrow, you should still visit your doctor or nurse to get needed medicine and health advice for a safe and healthy trip.
- Page created: April 21, 2013
- Page last updated: January 08, 2018
- Page last reviewed: January 08, 2018
- Content source: