If you’re planning to travel with your children this summer, you’re probably ready to deal with car or air sickness, scraped knees, and sunburn on the one spot where you didn’t get the sunscreen. There are, however, several other steps you should take, especially if you’re travelling overseas, to help make the trip safer and healthier for your kids.
- Make sure your children have the appropriate immunizations. As this year’s measles outbreak demonstrated, it’s important that your children have received all the appropriate immunizations to protect them against vaccine preventable diseases, including measles and whooping cough, both of which have experienced an increase in the number of cases in the U.S. and abroad in the past few years. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., there may be additional immunizations needed for the whole family. Make an appointment with your pediatrician or a travel physician two months before your trip so that you have adequate time to receive any vaccines that require multiple doses and so that your children have the time needed for the vaccines to provide immunity.
- Take precautions to prevent insect and food and water-borne illnesses. To prevent mosquito, flea, fly and tick-borne illnesses, ask your pediatrician what types of insect repellant are safe for your child. It can also be helpful to dress your children in lightweight long pants and a long sleeved shirt with socks and closed shoes to lower the risk of insect bites. To prevent food-borne illness, avoid undercooked or raw seafood and meat. Overseas, it’s wise to wash any fruit with bottled or boiled water or to remove the peel. Not only should you and your family drink commercially bottled, sealed water overseas, you should also use it to brush your teeth and clean pacifiers and baby bottles.
- Consider bringing a comprehensive medical kit from home. If your child regularly takes medication, make sure to bring enough for the trip. Ask your pediatrician for a prescription you can carry in case the medication is lost and you need an emergency refill. Bring a supply of over-the-counter medications, including a pain and fever reducer, anti-diarrheal medication, antibiotic and antihistamine creams, allergy medication, and antibacterial hand gel or wipes. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., the names and strengths of over-the-counter medications can be different, so it’s safer to bring what you may need.
- Carry a copy of your child’s medical history. This is especially important if your children have an ongoing health issue like asthma, but even if they don’t, having their comprehensive medical record available can be extremely helpful if they get sick or injured away from home. The record should include a list of any medications they take, an immunization record, a list of allergies, including drug allergies, and their doctor’s name and contact information.
- Keep car travel safe. If your child is still in a car seat, it’s better to bring his or her seat with you. If you purchase a ticket for your child, your baby can be safely strapped in during air travel and your seat is likely to be in better condition than one you rent at your destination. It’s particularly important to make sure your children always use an appropriate car seat or seat belt when traveling internationally because in certain countries, including China, India, Southeast Asia, the Russian Federation, Mexico and Brazil, there is much higher number of serious car accidents.
- Watch your children near water. Children should always be closely supervised near any body of water or pool and use age-appropriate flotation devices. It’s safer to avoid swimming in ponds and lakes if you’re not sure of the water quality. These bodies of water can harbor the diseases schistosomiasis and leptospirosis, which can be contracted by swallowing water while swimming.
If your child does need medical care while you’re away from home, a health advisor can help you find and get access to an experienced physician anywhere in the world. Planning ahead can help you be more prepared for a healthier trip with your family.