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Keeping Children Healthy For International Travel

Keeping Children Healthy For International Travel

Some destinations such as Asia or Mexico may pose health risks to children. Here are steps that parents and caregivers should take to ensure that their children stay healthy on the trip.

 

Have up-to-date vaccinations

Some countries recommend or require specific vaccinations to prevent local diseases such as Japanese encephalitis or yellow fever, so visit a health travel specialist four to six weeks before your trip to find out what your family needs.  Vaccine-preventable diseases tend to be more severe in children than in adults.

Steps regarding vaccines:

  • Make sure your child’s regular immunizations such as polio, measles, and hepatitis are up to date.
  • Check to see if your child’s routine vaccine schedule needs to be adjusted in order to ensure the child is fully protected.
  • Arrange to have shots well in advance, since some vaccinations require several weeks to provide full immunity.
  • Consider getting a flu (influenza) shot for children over the age of six months.  Flu season is usually all year in tropical regions, from November to April in the Northern hemisphere, and from April to October in the Southern hemisphere.
  • If you are travelling with an infant, discuss your options with a health care provider.  There are age limits on some vaccines.
  • If you are breastfeeding, discuss vaccination with your health care providers.  Most vaccines are safe for breastfeeding mothers.

 

Avoid mosquito-borne illnesses

Mosquitos can transmit diseases such as Zika, malaria, dengue, and chikungunya.  There are several ways to protect yourself and your family:

  1. Cover skin with long sleeves, long pants, and socks.
  2. Use an insect repellent with DEET or Icaridin.  Repellent is not recommended for use on children under the age of 6 months, but may be needed in areas with a risk of malaria or dengue.  Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations about applying insect repellent on young children. Wash it off before going to bed.
  3. At night, cover your bed with a bed net that is treated with insecticide.

Avoid taking children to areas where they at risk of developing malaria.  If you must travel to a malaria risk area, talk to your healthcare provider about whether the child should take anti-malarian medication.  This medication should be kept in child-proof containers and be out of reach.  The taste is unpleasant, so the tablets may be crushed and mixed with small amounts of food or drink to mask the taste.

 

Avoid infectious diarrhea

Diarrhea is the most common illness that can occur while traveling abroad, say experts at UCLA.  This condition can be prevented by ensuring that your child washes his hands before eating and only consumes foods that have been peeled, cooked, or boiled.

If your child does develop diarrhea, it is important to keep her hydrated.  You can obtain oral rehydration salts from a pharmacy and mix them with bottled or boiled water, or by giving a prepacked rehydration drink suitable for kids such as Pedialyte.

Seek medical attention if your child is:

  • vomiting so much she seem dehydrated or cannot tolerate drinking.
  • has a fever of 101.4 degrees F or higher.
  • has blood in his stool.

Getting the proper vaccinations, avoiding infectious diarrhea, and avoiding mosquito-borne diseases can help ensure that your family will enjoy themselves while travelling and come back healthy.  Parents and caregivers should be aware of possible health concerns in the area they are visiting and know where to get medical help, if needed.

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