What Vaccines Do I Need to Travel to India When Visiting my Family?

what vaccines do i need to travel to indiaThe excitement is building…..You have booked tickets to travel to India to visit your family. But how will you prepare? Do you need any travel vaccines? What else do you need to do to stay healthy?

Second in a series about how to stay healthy while traveling to specific destinations.

Bringing your family back to India is a great joy-but there are some health risks to consider. You may be asking,” What vaccines do I need to travel to India?”  For travel to India you will need some routine and travel vaccines along with simple preparation for malaria, dengue, diarrhea and other common diseases. With careful preparation you can truly relax and enjoy you long-planned trip.

It is important to remember that when returning to India, children do not have immunity to local Indian illnesses instead they have immunity to local American illnesses.  Likewise, parents who have lived away from India for awhile have declining immunity too. So the whole family needs to prepare for a delightful, healthy trip ‘home’.

If possible visit your doctor and travel medicine specialist at least 4-6 weeks prior to travel. This way any needed immunizations will be fully effective. If you don’t have that much time, don’t worry, we can work around it.

Routine vaccines may need an accelerated schedule:

Talk to your primary care provider about your routine vaccines, please make sure you are up to date, including flu, DPT, polio, MMR, etc.

Getting the flu vaccine isn’t glamorous, but it is one of the best vaccines to prevent illness from ruining your vacation. You should know influenza is the most common illness afflicting travelers which can be prevented by a vaccine.

Children often need an accelerated vaccine schedule to prepare: For children, especially those less than 24 months, 2 doses of MMR vaccines are recommended.  Babies can receive their first MMR vaccine as early as 6 months of age. One note of caution, after receiving MMR or Chicken pox vaccine you will have to wait 28 days before getting any more live vaccines (MMR, Chickenpox, yellow fever vaccine) so plan accordingly. Flumist and Rotavirus vaccine do not affect spacing of other vaccines.

Certain Travel Vaccines are needed too:

Travel vaccines such as Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies are important to discuss with your travel medicine specialist.

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers to India. Adults suffer far more from the illness than children. Fortunately, most children raised in the USA receive this as a routine vaccine. If you don’t have time to get both doses 6 months apart, don’t fret: 98% of people are protected with their first dose. If you grew up in India, you will want to discuss this with your doctor, as you may not need this vaccine.

Typhoid is particularly common in India. Adults and children 24 months and older visiting their family and friends should be immunized against it. The vaccine needs to be boosted every 2- 5 years depending upon type of vaccine used.

Polio vaccine boost, once, as an adult is recommended for people who grew up outside of India.

Hepatitis B, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines are needed in certain instances. It is best to discuss these with your travel medicine specialist.

Yellow fever vaccine is not needed for India if coming from the USA.

Discuss these preventable diseases with your doctor:

Malaria is present in many parts of India, especially during the rainy season. Protect yourself and your children against mosquito bites with insect repellents, screens and bed nets. Mosquitoes spread malaria. Additionally, anti-malarial medications are recommended to provide added protection. At this point in time, there isn’t a malaria vaccine available.

Other concerns exist-Dengue and Chikungunya which are best prevented with insect repellents.

Make a plan to prevent and treat traveler’s diarrhea

Don’t forget typical childhood illness (ear infections, colds, etc), your family’s doctor is likely to be able to help out with these common problems.

However, the biggest health risk worldwide remains car travel. This is especially true in India where car accidents are common.  I highly recommend using seat belts and taking car seats with you to use.  This requires some advanced planning as many cars in India are smaller; your existing car seat may not fit in the family car.

Whether planning to travel for a celebration or just to catch up with relatives you will need to adress the health needs of your family. Children who have grown up outside of India have different health needs than their parents. Even adults who grew up in India will need to prepare. Talk to your doctor about how to best get every member of the family health protected prior to departure.

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photo courtesy of indichick7


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