Keeping The Family Healthy While Abroad (T-minus 104 days)

Fortunately I’m not “needle phobic”; based on our preliminary research it looks like there may not be enough places on my body for all the upcoming injections!

According to the CDC Web Site we must prepare to deal with at least the following horrible maladies: rabies, HepA, HepB, TBE, typhoid, polio, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, avian flu, dengue fever, and malaria.  And that is just off the web site – before a trained professional weighs in on what we need.

We started a conversation with the Kaiser Permanente travel clinic.  It didn’t seem like they often have requests for the number of countries/cities we are planning to visit (~30 countries and ~90 cities). I suspect it is no small feat to do the research to confirm we get all the shots we need.  In any event, we are waiting until 6 weeks before departure to ensure we have the most current information before the “poking begins”.  I guess the need can change pretty quickly based on what contagious diseases are emerging at different areas of the world.

(Update on T-16 days:  Suzanne & I ended up getting 9 injections each!  (it seemed like almost everything in the nurses injection cart)  The kids were already current on most of the vaccines, so they only needed one additional shot.  We were spared one reputedly painful shot by taking the oral vaccine for typhoid (capsules).  Alex learned how to swallow a pill which took her about 15 minutes and 5 attempts – but was motivated by the possible need for another shot if she didn’t figure it out.  Here is a little video on the oral typhoid vaccine that helped the kids (and parents) understand the vaccine.)

Besides the shots, there are several other things I’m working on to do what we can to remain healthy during our year abroad.

1. Insurance.  We bought emergency health evacuation insurance through our air consolidator along with our first set of air tickets.  It is inexpensive and will basically pay for an air evacuation back to the US if needed.  I’m also enrolling in a high deductible family plan with Kaiser for two reasons; first, we will have phone and email access to our current doctors (who have our electronic medical records) from anywhere in the world; second, we need to have “continuation of care” in case we need to purchase our own US insurance when we return.  The new US Health Care reform laws that may kick into effect in 2014 should eliminate this problem, but that will be too late for us.

2.  First aid kit.  I’m building a small first aid kit to deal with the simple and basic health needs such as head aches, blisters, cuts, chapped lips, diarrhea, heart burn, sun burn, etc.  Since we are packing light, with only a carry on for each of us, it will be small and light.  Of course, we will enhance and replace supplies as we go.

3.  Dental.  We are all getting our teeth cleaned and Suzanne & I are getting our old metal fillings replaced before leaving.  I understand the metal fillings they put in our teeth 20 years ago are prone to crack one’s teeth.  Bummer.  Anyway, I would prefer to have Bret (my dentist for 20 years) take care of this now rather than crack a tooth while on safari and have some random dentist in the local village work on it.

4.  Go Local.  From the reading I have done, the medical care in most countries abroad is often quite good and a great value compared to the United States.   So, unless we face some serious situation which causes us to believe we need to come home to California for care, we will use the local care delivery systems.

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