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Medicine & Vaccines

Depending on how many countries you’re visiting, after getting your meds and injections, you’ll either feel peachy keen or like a pill-popping pin cushion. We felt like the latter.

Eaman got all of his immunizations at his primary physician in New York, and luckily for him, many of the medicines were covered by his insurance. Not so much for me.

I never had a primary physician in the city, so I went with a travel doctor, which turned out to be a godsend because the CDC‘s site was confusing to say the least. At the travel doctor, they sat me down with maps of all of our destinations, and we talked for 45 minutes about what meds were mandatory, what was recommended and other helpful tips. Yes, it cost me $75 for the visit itself—on top of the hundreds spent on vaccinations not covered by my insurance—but leaving for my trip totally knowledgeable was priceless.

Shots we got:

  • Typhoid
  • Tetanus
  • Meningitis (the ones we got pre-college lasted about 3 years, and with all those personal space-lacking hostels, we needed it)
  • Yellow Fever (you actually have to show proof—via an appropriately yellow vaccination card—of your shot when entering many South American countries)
  • Adult polio

We both already had Hepatitis A and B shots, and decided against shots for rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. We don’t anticipate much rabid animal interaction (fingers crossed!) and JE is recommended for people spending a lot of time in very rural areas with domestic pigs and wild birds. Plus—not to put a price on health—but each of those shots were $275 at the travel doctor. Ay caramba!

Of course there were pills, too. We picked up anti-diarrhea antibiotics—different ones for South America and SE Asia—as well as malaria meds. Little did we know the world of malaria tablets is a vast, complex one. There are three main types and various pros and cons. Take a look for yourself:

Doxycycline
Pros: Cheap
Cons: Daily dosage (and have to continue for 28 days post-travel); may interfere with birth control (since it’s an antibiotic); prone to sun sensitivity, GI issues and yeast infections

Malarone
Pros: Few to no side effects
Cons: Expensive; daily dosage (but only have to continue for a week post-travel)

Lariam
Pros: Weekly dosage
Cons: Resistant in parts of SE Asia; prone to sleep disorders and nightmares

We chose doxycycline because it was worlds cheaper than the much-touted malarone. And thanks to Eaman’s investigative work, we got the doxy even cheaper through Walgreens’ Prescription Savings Club. He also bought all of our pills while visiting his family in Oklahoma, where the medicine everything is cheaper, so definitely shop around to find the best price.

As far as the side effects, I sense that the sun sensitivity applies more to fair-skinned blondes and red-heads—and that our extra melanin will help us. Regardless, I’m an SPF nazi anyway. I just need to get Eaman on board. His best defense for why he doesn’t need sunscreen? “My people are from the desert!”


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