Prepare Your Immune System Now For the 2018 Olympics

Vaccination prior to international travel helps prevent diseases

us bobsled team

If you are traveling to PyeongChang, South Korea for the 2018 Olympics on February 9th, or the Paralympics on March 9, 2018, you still have time to prep your immune system before attending the events.

The 2018 Olympic Games will bring people from all over the world and vaccine-preventable diseases together. In addition to the known risks of the host country, it is important to learn which vaccines can reduce your risks, before boarding an airplane," said Chris Felton, PharmD MTM Clinical Pharmacist, Brookshire Grocery Company.

"Before traveling, schedule a pharmacist to review your immunization history, discuss recommendations and get your immunizations up to date," said Felton.

Additionally, if you are welcoming in the Lunar New Year at ‘The Year of the Dog’ celebration on February 16, 2018, you can easily confirm your immunization status at travel vaccine clinics or a local pharmacy.

The Korean New Year is typically a three-day family holiday used by many to return to their hometowns.

In 2016, 36 million South Koreans reportedly traveled to visit their families during the Korean New Year, according to the Seoul Times.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) generally recommends international travelers should be current with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, polio vaccines, and the seasonal flu shot.

Specifically, when visiting South Korea, the CDC suggests you review these additional vaccines with your healthcare provider 4 to 6 weeks in advance of departure: 

  • Hepatitis A:  CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in South Korea, regardless of where you are eating or staying.
  • Typhoid:  You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in South Korea. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
  • Japanese Encephalitis:  You may need this vaccine if your trip will last more than a month, depending on where you are going in South Korea and what time of year you are traveling. You should also consider this vaccine if you plan to visit rural areas in South Korea or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, even for trips shorter than a month. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans. See more in-depth information on Japanese encephalitis in South Korea.
  • Malaria:  When traveling in South Korea, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling.

It’s best to be prepared before departure to treat common illnesses. Some medicines may be difficult to find at your destination, may have different names, or may have different ingredients than what you normally use.

Use the Healthy Travel Packing List for South Korea for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which items are most important to you, says the CDC.