Ask any globetrotter: the world is full of interesting people and places, but it’s also full of nasty bacteria and viruses. Fortifying yourself against infectious diseases is a lifelong process, especially if you like to travel.
To keep local infections from spreading, the World Health Organisation recommends that all travellers be immunised against measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio. These shots are routine in most developed countries, but a holiday is a good excuse to confirm you got them as a child.
Additional vaccination may be in order, depending on the time of year, your destination, health, age, and planned activities. With all of these factors to consider, your best bet is to visit a doctor, ideally at least four weeks before departure (in case you require multiple doses).
Last-minute travel plans are no excuse for skipping the doctor: you can still learn about potential risks and steps to take to avoid them, such as wearing insect repellent or eschewing tap water. And some vaccines can be effective right away: if someone gets the hepatitis A shot just before leaving, “in most cases it will prevent the disease even if the traveller is exposed immediately after arriving in their destination country,” says Dr Phyllis Kozarsky, a consultant for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.