Friday, October 14, 2011


Last Thursday, we went in to Passport Health LA to get our shots to protect us as much as possible from health risks on our trip. Our nurse was very helpful and had compiled a booklet regarding health issues we may encounter for every country we are visiting and discussed our immunization history and reviewed all the recommended shots and medications. In the end, we both got the Typhoid and Yellow fever vaccines (one-time shot good for a few years, each) and Matt got a Tetanus booster (ten year) and I got my second Hep A shot (should have done it in 2004, after getting the first for China, but switching schools, it sort of got away from me!).

Matt took his shots like a champ - Tetanus first in the left upper arm muscle, yellow fever under the skin on the left arm, and Typhoid in the right upper arm. All three in about 2 minutes. Then it was my turn. The very first, Hep A, in my upper right arm made me feel a little woozy - I could feel it moving through my arm, then my fingers were tingly, then I felt a little lightheaded - so the nurse recommended I lie on the floor and brought me some grape juice. A week later, I still have a little bruise at the injection site and it was tender for a while, too. (I know, I am such a whiner, but wait, there's more!). I also received the yellow fever shot under the skin on my left arm and typhoid in my upper right. Both of us experienced pain for several days on the right arm due to the typhoid vaccine - it felt akin to the soreness felt after a heavy day weight lifting using the deltoid. Matt felt the usual stiffness and tenderness in his left arm from the Tetanus shot.

Here's the fun part: whereas after receiving the yellow fever shot, the injection site on Matt's arm did not even need a band-aid. My arm, however, was swollen for several days and extremely tender, then remained red and somewhat stiff, and now looks black and blue like a bruise, about the size of a quarter. Apparently, 10-30% of people who get the shot have a mild reaction of this nature and as long as there is no puss or fluid coming from it, I shouldn't worry. Good times.

We decided not to get rabies vaccines, both because they are extremely expensive ($260 per shot per person for three shots plus follow up visits) and because of our natural aversion to dogs and other animals due to Matt's allergies. However, we know that should we have an encounter with a wild animal that involves scratching or biting, we will need to get to a hospital ASAP for treatment.

Additionally, we discussed the importance of protecting ourselves from Mosquitos and other insects, because they are carriers of many diseases, aside from Malaria, that do not have vaccines, such as Dengue Fever and West Nile, etc. We had already purchased a spray for our clothing containing Permethrin and Deet lotions and sprays for our skin and are going to purchase a mosquito net for sleeping (hopefully that contains Permethrin) later today. I am not so keen on taking Malaria pills for a verity of reasons - one kind is not really viable as most strains are now immune to chloroquinine, one kind is not an option for me as it interferes with other medications, one kind causes deep nightmares/hallucinations (which I am not comfortable with) as well as increases light sensitivity, and the last kind is somewhat prohibitively expensive (though that may be different in other countries). I think having serious bug protection is the most important, and one again, if either of us experiences and symptoms (fever, rash, etc) we will seek medical attention immediately. If we are able to acquire the other medication for a reasonable price in a malaria area, we may choose to take it then.

Getting the shots last week definitely made the reality that we are leaving in just a few short days VERY real!

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