Travelling to Visit Friends and Relatives

Many Canadians travel each year back to their home country to visit friends and relatives. Travellers who return to a lower-income country, than Canada, have specific higher travel risks than tourists to those countries. After living in Canada for a while and possible even having Canadian-born children, the risks change for travellers who go back to visit.

Myth: If you’ve had malaria once then you are immune to it and can’t get it again.

FACT: Once you have left your home country for more than 1 year, your protection against malaria (and many other diseases) is lost. 

For your body to keep its protection against malaria you need to be around it regularly. Malaria does not occur in Canada, so people lose their protection against it. The only way to protect yourself against malaria is by preventing mosquito bites, using malaria medication and recognizing and treating symptoms early.


Myth: Children born in Canada won’t get ill when travelling back to visit friends and relatives.

FACT: Children born in Canada don’t get protection against diseases passed onto them from their parents. 

Adults who’ve had diseases, like malaria or Hepatitis A, do not pass the protection onto their children. Children who have received all the routine vaccines given in Canada are protected against a number of diseases. But, there are specific travel vaccines recommended for children who travel back to visit friends and family. Also, children may need medication for things like malaria and traveller’s diarrhea.

Myth: If you stay with friends and relatives, you’re less likely to get sick.

FACT: Travellers who visit friends and relatives are more likely than tourists to get sick. 

Many things are different when visiting friends and relatives; you may be less likely to decline food your hosts offer, you may drink untreated water, and have closer contact with the locals. This increases the risk for disease such as; Hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, meningitis and tuberculosis.

Myth: You can get any medications or vaccines you need when you arrive at your destination.

FACT: All vaccines need around 2 weeks before travel to become effective and malaria medication has to begin before you arrive in a risk area. 

Many vaccines and medications are available in most countries in the world, but lower-income countries have many cases of fake and not properly stored medications and vaccines. If you want to receive them when you arrive you could get sick before the vaccine or medication works.

Myth: “I had all my vaccines as a kid so I’m protected”

FACT: Many Canadian immigrants don’t have protection against measles, mumps, rubella or chicken pox.

Sometimes in the home country, during childhood, not all these vaccines or enough doses were given. Chickenpox is also more common in countries like Canada than in tropical countries so many immigrants never had the disease. When people immigrate to Canada, their immunization history is not reviewed and updated. As well, there are disease specific to some countries that travellers should be vaccinated against before going.

How can I stay protected?

Before you leave for any travel it is important to discuss vaccinations and health precautions with your health care provider. If you would like to make an appointment with Atlas Immunizations to get vaccinated then please book your vaccination appointment online or via telephone at (780) 465-5150.

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