Some health facts…
- Children have greater risk of being exposed to contagious childhood diseases while traveling. Keep routine childhood immunizations up to date, e.g. diphtheria, tetanus, polio, mumps, measles & rubella.
- Vaccines like yellow fever, typhoid, Japanese B encephalitis and rabies may be required by the country to which you are traveling. They may be safely given to children aged 9 months or older. Meningococcal vaccine is necessary for children over 3 months traveling to epidemic areas. Children one year and older should receive the pediatric formulation of hepatitis A vaccine.
- Children are less concerned with personal cleanliness, food handling and sanitation than adults. This makes them more likely to develop traveler’s diarrhea.
- Children may be more interested in coming into contact with animals that may be carrying fleas or ticks that can spread infection. Special precautions including preventive medications can be taken to protect children from mosquito-borne infections such as malaria.
- Jet lag, motion sickness and home sickness can also spoil the fun of traveling for them.
Getting ready to go…
Start with a clean bill of health
Preparing children for international travel should start no later than 8 weeks before departure. Visit your doctor who will advise you on any immunization requirements and any recent disease outbreak. Prevention of malaria is problematic because many of the medications cannot be used in young children. Drugs to prevent malaria should begin 1 week before travel and continue throughout the trip till 4 weeks after returning.
Keep to a routine schedule
Plan travel to coincide with children’s normal sleeping time. This causes less disruption and irritability.
Confirm air travel arrangements
Specific seating requests e.g. nonsmoking areas and bulkhead seats where there is more room for children can make your flight more comfortable. You can also request meal substitutes like hamburgers. Many airlines make sky cost available for infant safety.
Bring along necessities
Always bring the milk bottles and nipples your baby is familiar with. Powdered formula that can be mixed with bottled water is usually the safest and most convenient. Pack a good supply of disposable diapers. Remember to pack a favorite toy or game to keep your child occupied during long journeys.
- Tips to relieve ear pain during takeoff and landing:
- Offer a bottle, pacifier or for older children, a lollipop to encourage swallowing to open the passage inside the ears to equalize the pressure.
- Avoid full meals 2 hours before traveling. Try not o offer food in transit.
- Discourage reading and coloring. Travel games and looking out the window are better diversions.
- If your child is prone to motion sickness, ask your doctor about preventive medications.
When you arrive…
Children are at no more risk of getting sick when traveling than when they are at home. The potential for disease is everywhere.
- Dehydration is the greatest risk from traveler’s diarrhea and is especially dangerous for infants up to 2 years of age. To prevent traveler’s diarrhea:
- Eat only well – cooked food
- Avoid high – risk foods such as salads and seafood
- Assume that all local water supplies and ice are unsafe to consume or even use when brushing your teeth
- Make sure all milk products have been boiled and pasteurized
Mild to moderate traveler’s diarrhea can be treated with fluid replacement therapy and easily digested food such as rice and dry toast or crackers. Special oral dehydration solutions can be used to prevent dehydration in infants. Seek immediate medical attention if the child has bloody diarrhea, a fever over 38ºC, persistent vomiting or shows signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, no tears, reduced or no urination and severe weight loss.
Vector borne disease
Children are at high risk of getting malaria simply because they are less concerned about protection and more often exposed to mosquito bites. Symptoms of malaria include fever, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, chills and sweats. Personal protective measures such as loose fully – covered clothing, netting and staying indoors from dusk till dawn should be avoided. The risk of schistosomiasis caused by fresh water snails exist in certain countries.
Accidents pose the greatest danger to most travelers especially children. Do not walk barefooted, avoid wild animals, wear seat belts when traveling in planes and motor vehicles and use sun block in the tropics.