We'll be taking a big family vacation in a couple of months. Do my kids need to get any special immunizations before we go?
If you plan to travel abroad or internationally it's possible that your children — and you — will need additional vaccinations. Different countries have different health risks and may require specific vaccines. For example, your family will need the yellow fever vaccine if you're traveling to sub-Saharan Africa or tropical South America.
To find out which vaccines your family needs, ask your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of recommended or required vaccinations (the site includes a section devoted to travelers' health that you can search by destination).
Most immunizations should be given at least 1 month before travel, so try to schedule a doctor's visit 4-6 weeks before your trip. This gives plenty of time for the vaccines to take effect, and allows for vaccines to be given over a period of days or weeks, if necessary. But even if you're leaving in less than 4 weeks, you should still make an appointment, as kids might still benefit from shots or medications.
Depending on your travel plans, your doctor may recommend that in addition to routine immunizations, you and/or your kids be vaccinated against:
Although all kids get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12-15 months of age, any who will travel outside the United States before that should get the vaccine as early as 6 months of age.
Kids of any age can get malaria, so if you're traveling to a country with a malaria risk, talk to your doctor about antimalarial drugs. The doctor will decide the best preventive medication based on your destination and your kids' health status.
And if you're traveling internationally, be sure to take your kids' immunization records with you when you go.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015