Thinking of a winter break somewhere warm and sunny? Then you’ll be heading to places where various vaccines may be either advised, or required.
Sometimes you won’t get a visa unless you have the vaccine, but most of them are not compulsory – and that leaves you with decisions to make.
In general, health advisors will play safe: if there is a vaccine for a disease that is present in the country to which you’re going, they will recommend you to have it. But if you are worried about the possible side-effects of injections, or you simply want to minimise any invasive procedures, it’s easy enough to check online. Find out how common the disease actually is, and where the hot-spots are. More often than not, they’ll be in the more remote areas rather than in places where tourists congregate.
That means the actual risk to you is no more than it might be at any international airport; and you probably wouldn’t feel the need to get inoculated against, say, yellow fever, if you were picking up visitors from Heathrow.
And by the way, yellow fever is passed on by the bites of infected mosquitos, so you really can’t catch it unless you go to the areas where they breed. Six travellers from Europe and America have contracted yellow fever since 1996, according to the NHS website. That’s hardly even worth thinking about.
The other side of the coin is to boost your immunity in other ways. Eating garlic, or taking capsules (not deodorised), will make you less susceptible to all sorts of things, from viruses to parasites, including many which are very common and for which there are no vaccines. Take bitter herbs, starting some time before you go; things like Artemisia annua and the other members of the wormwood family will help protect you, and make your skin secretions less appetising to mosquitos. Avoid sugar-rich foods and, when you’re in the country, eat local food prepared with local herbs and spices.
They’re not just there for the taste; they help preserve the food, help you to digest it, and repel micro-organisms too.
And most important of all, be positive! If you step out of the plane in a state of terror, imagining armies of invisible bugs waiting to devour you, you will be more susceptible. Fear and anxiety depress your immune system.
Of course, don’t be foolhardy, but use your head, and enjoy the place you’ve come so far to see.
EDITOR: Su has an excellent handbook which can be bought directly from her website or from Amazon. Also, in the coming days, I shall be announcing a competition in which the handbook will be one of my December Super Raffle prizes!