Gettin’ Medicated & Vaccinated!

Posted on August 22nd, 2011 by BreAnn

So my trip to Peru is LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY!!!  I still haven’t booked any tours or anything (whoops!), I just have my international flight there and back.  Only reason I haven’t booked yet is I’m trying to figure out the hiking part to Machu Picchu, and the tour company I wanted to book with (GAP Adventures) doesn’t have many people hiking the LARES trail—which is what I want to hike—so now I’m looking at other tour companies. We’ll see. I wanted to try to “wing” the whole trip—especially because it’s out of my comfort zone to just go on a trip and figure things out as I go—and I would love to go on a trip for once and not plan every damn minute of it!!  but I’ve been told it’s a popular time to travel in Peru, and if I don’t book ahead I run the risk of not doing the tours I want to do.  *SIGH*

Meanwhile, I’ve been prepping for my trip by totally getting “shot up” with a billion vaccinations, and filling a bunch of prescriptions to ensure I only bring back souvenirs—not any crazy diseases or sicknesses—from Peru 🙂   Most vaccinations were listed as just “optional” on some Peru travel websites, but since all shots are covered through my health insurance, and most of the shots last 5-10 years, I figured I might as well get them all done and over with now so I’m covered for Peru and any future travel.

Here is a list of all the vaccinations that are now circulating throughout my lovely body:     🙂

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus, which is most commonly spread by close personal contact and sometimes by eating food or drinking water containing the virus. I got the first shot two weeks ago, and in 6 months I will need to return to get a second shot . . . and after that, I will be covered for 20 YEARS!

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus, which is spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. I got the first shot two weeks ago, and after my trip I will return for a second shot. Finally, I will have to go back to get a THIRD shot 6 months later . . . and after all three shots, I will be covered for my ENTIRE LIFE!

Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever is a serious disease found in certain parts of Africa and South America (including Peru, of course), and is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.  Since I will be visiting the Amazon Jungle, it was most important that I received this vaccination as the jungle can be densely covered with mosquitos!!  This vaccination will cover me for 10 years.

Typhoid fever is a serious disease caused by a bacteria called Salmonella Typhi, most commonly ingested by drinking or eating contaminated food or water.  This shot will only cover me for 2 years, so if I travel back to South America or go to Central America, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East anytime after 2 years from now, I will have to get vaccinated again.  🙁

Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis)
The Tdap shot is a combo of three different vaccines: Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (whooping cough.)  Tetanus is a much more commonly known disease/vaccination, as YOU ALL have gotten the shot in the past (think: cut by a rusty nail!) The tetanus disease causes painful muscle spasms, lockjaw, and can cause death, and it enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds. Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat, Pertussis is better known as Whooping Cough, and both of these are caused by bacteria spread from person to person. This Tdap vaccine lasts for 10 YEARS– and if YOU haven’t personally gotten this shot in the past 10 years, make sure to ask your doctor to give it to you the next time you are in for your normal checkup!

I received Hep A, Hep B, and Yellow fever in one visit and I didn’t really feel any long-term side effects. However, about 15 minutes after the shots I felt a bit nauseous/pukey (not sure if that was from the shots, or it was just nerves?), but the feeling went away within the hour.

I received Typhoid and Tdap in a separate visit, and maybe about 5 hours afterwards my entire deltoid (shoulder) muscle REALLY started hurting!  It actually ended up hurting pretty BADLY as time went on, and it hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep on that side and I found it difficult to do anything that required the use of the muscle (even opening the car door hurt!!)  The pain lasted maybe 4-5 days, so I’m HAPPY I got the shots in my left arm since I’m right-handed!!

As for medications, I’m packing the usual precautionary over-the-counter meds that I normally pack “just in case”: pepto bismol, pain meds, antacids, cold meds, motion sickness pills, sleeping pills, caffeine pills (both sleeping pills and caffeine pills to help with jet lag if needed), but in addition, from reading information and advice online I also got my doctor to prescribe me some additional medications:

Malarone is a medication to prevent catching the disease, Malaria. Malaria is prominent in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and sections of South America, and is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. I need to take one pill a day starting 2 days before my trip, then every day while I am traveling, and then 7 days after I have returned to the US.

Acetazolamide is a medication to prevent altitude sickness. Cusco, the main city people travel to in Peru before they reach Machu Picchu, is at 11,000 ft which is pretty high up!  Before doing anything moderately active, a person should spend a day or two in the city in order to acclimate to the high elevation, otherwise one might get altitude sickness (headache, heavy breathing, extreme tiredness.) I have read that if you don’t get—and take—this medication ahead of time, you most likely will have some or all symptoms of altitude sickness. I will need to take one pill a day starting two days before I arrive in Cusco, and then the first two days while I am in town.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
Cipro is an antibiotic to treat traveler’s diarrhea. I read online and was told by my doctor that this is definitely something I should bring along on my trip “just in case” I get sick. Considering how often I got sick in Spain, I definitely want to have Cipro with me for this trip!!


Phew!  LOTS of stuff to be putting in my body, eh?  Oh well, my policy—thanks to my lovely mother—has always been:  ALWAYS BE PREPARED!!!!

And I definitely will be for this Peru trip . . . at least with medications and vaccinations!!

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