Medicines and vaccinations
Believe it or not, we are not able to simply pack our truck and drive anywhere we want. For the past two years, we have been researching the documents, vaccinations, etc. needed to travel throughout North and South America. We’ve found that there are several vaccinations that are suggested if you plan to travel throughout Central and South America and there are also several medications that would be helpful to take along with you. We hope to help other travelers who plan on completing a trip similar to ours as well as let family and friends know how much work this really is! It’s not as easy as we may make it sound!
We visited our local travel clinic a few weeks ago and received an overwhelming amount of information. The doctor and nurse were super helpful and answered any questions we had- we were there for over two hours! Their biggest concern was malaria. Several of the countries we are going to be visiting are malarious and haveing a form of prevention is not required but highly suggested . Malaria is spread through mosquitoes and can make you very sick, even kill you. This means that we have to take proper precautions to not get sick. They do not have a vaccine yet. The most common method to prevent malaria is by taking doxycycline because it is effective and cheap- only about 32 cents per pill. You start taking the antibiotic one day before entering a malarious area, take it each day throughout your time there, and then for four weeks after leaving. The other issue with taking an antibiotic is it interacts with other medications such as birth control pills. There are other options to prevent malaria, such as malarone, mefloquine or chloroquine. In some parts of South America, the parasite that causes malaria is resistant to chloroquine so we decided not to go with that option in order to keep the medication we will be taking consistent. Malarone is also taken once a day, like doxycycline, but much more expensive- about 13 dollars per pill. Mefloquine is taken once a week, is also expensive- about 13 dollars per pill, has side effects such as hallucinations, depression, etc., but does not interact negatively with birth control pills. You just have to find what is best for your situation, but there are many options!
We then talked about dengue fever, which is also spread through mosquitoes. The only way to prevent dengue fever is to wear insect repellent and long pants and shirts. You can check the Center for Disease Control’s website to see if there were any recent outbreaks in the areas you will be traveling to by going to: www.cdc.gov. Another great website for information regarding malaria, dengue fever and any other health concerns you should have is www.healthmap.org. It shows you where there have been recent disease outbreaks and what areas have diseases you should be aware of.
You can get a rabies vaccine as well. This is optional and not required to get across any borders. It is a series of three shots, about $225 per shot. Needless to say, Nate and I decided to take our chances and just stay clear of any questionable animals. Also, if you do get bit by an animal and are worried about it, you can receive the shots afterwards, as long as you get it within a certain window of time.
The following is a list of vaccinations we had to get (or have already gotten) that are suggested before entering Central and South America:
You must show proof of receiving the yellow fever vaccine before crossing some countries borders by having an International Certificate of Vaccination, also known as a yellow card.
The travel clinic also suggested that we take along a few different medications in case we get sick along the way. The following is what we were prescribed to take along with us:
Flagyll (also called metronidazole): for giardia, taken 3 times a day for 7 days
Ciprofloxacin: for travelers diarrhea and urinary tract infections, taken 2 times a day for 3 days
Cephalexin: for skin infections, taken 4 times a day for 7-10 days
Fluconazole: for yeast infections, taken once a day, for 7 days
Along with everything the travel clinic has provided for us, we will pack a full first aid kit. Our first aid kit will have alcohol, adhesive tape, bandages, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, rubber gloves, scissors, a suture kit, thermometer, tweezers, Ace bandage, antibiotic cream, aspirin/ibuprofen/acetaminophen, epi-pen, allergy medication such as Benadryl, upset stomach reliever such as Pepto Bismol, hydrocortisone cream, anti-diarrhea reliever such as Immodium and a few other random things that are thrown in there.
We will also have a dog first aid kit for Brady. The things required for Brady beforehand are an International Health Certificate, documents that provide a medical history and rabies vaccination documentation. You have to get the International Health Certificate signed and dated 2-4 weeks before crossing the border into Mexico. Many countries do not accept the 3 year rabies vaccine, so we will have to make sure to get Brady the one year rabies vaccine right before we go. We will stock up on Frontline (flea and tick prevention) and heart worm medication. These things can be bought abroad but having plenty on hand ensures that Brady will always be protected. Another thing we will do is create a dog tag with our contact information in Spanish.
Although it may sound like fun to be able to just “pack up and go”, unfortunately it is not entirely realistic. When not knowing exactly where you may be traveling or for how long, it is okay to be a little over-prepared. And of course it is highly possible that we may be prepared in every situation that we come across, but we can’t say we didn’t try! And sometimes, not being prepared for everything makes for an adventure you will never forget 🙂