Summer is right around the corner and for many of us that means family vacations are getting close! Family vacations are a great way to see different parts of the world, make lasting memories, and form a greater bond with each other. From the time you start to make travel plans, to having to pack anything and everything you could possibly need while away from home, to locking down an itinerary, preparing for a trip can be an extremely involved process. On top of all that, traveling with children can add a different set of stresses for parents, especially when traveling internationally. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1.9 million American children travel internationally each year and the numbers continue to increase. Collectively we all face the same health risks when we travel, regardless of our age, but it’s our children who can be affected more seriously. To help reduce the risks of travel and help keep everyone happy, safe, and healthy, the Children’s Wellness Center providers have rounded up our top travel safety tips for the entire family.
Before you take off…know the health and safety recommendations of the country you’re visiting. Depending on where you’re traveling to, some countries require specific immunizations and vaccines before you can enter the country. When you travel to a foreign place, you’re opening yourself up to being exposed to diseases, infections, and illnesses that your body may never come into contact with in the United States. It is recommended that everyone have their current measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine to keep themselves protected and to also protect those here at home from coming into contact with a person who may unknowingly be a carrier of the measles. If you’re traveling to countries in Africa, Central America, or South America you may need a yellow fever vaccine while typhoid is recommended for those traveling to Asia, Latin America, or Africa. If you’re not sure what may be recommended or required before you travel, head to the CDC website for specific travel information and recommendations on how you can help everyone in your family avoid health concerns (note that not all travel vaccines are carried at every practice and may require a referral to a local travel clinic if required).
When travelling with children…sometimes you have to get creative. Long flights require children to have to stay seated for extended periods of time so traveling with activities (like coloring books, games, toys, etc.) can be helpful in keeping them occupied. If you have the choice in flight options, choose flights that are at night when children can sleep through a good majority of the flight only to wake up when it’s time to land! Be sure to pack bug spray, long pants and sleeves to protect from diseases that are carried by insects (malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, Zika virus, etc.) and lots of sunscreen, for skin cancer protection.
When it comes to feeding time, one of the most common illnesses many travelers experience is diarrhea. This can be caused by any number of reasons but some of the most frequent causes of diarrhea are eating raw foods (like fish or undercooked meats), drinking tap water, and consuming foods washed in local water supplies like fruits and vegetables. Stick to hot foods and bottled water if you’re traveling within a developing country or are unfamiliar with the regions local food and safety precautions.
In case of a medical emergency…devise a plan of action in advance outlining how to get proper treatment while you’re abroad. Register your family information through the U.S. Embassy located in the country you’re visiting (this can typically be done online). They’ll be able to assist you during a medical emergency and even notify family and friends back home of any incidences that have occurred. Check with your insurance company for overseas policies in advance and consider travel insurance for extra precaution, if needed. If you or any of your family members are taking medications, be sure to pack them all – and maybe even pack a little extra so you’re not risking having to go without your medications at any point. We like to also suggest packing medication in your carry-on bag, because sometimes luggage can get temporarily misplaced or lost and at least this way, important medications will be with you.
While it’s nice to be able to plan every detail of a trip, sometimes sickness or injuries occur without any warning so making sure you and your family are able to get the care you need while abroad is important. We certainly hope that everyone has a healthy, safe, and enjoyable trip abroad, and with a bit of research and proper planning, you’ll be prepared, just in case! Stay connected with the Children’s Wellness team on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube for more pediatric health and safety tips, news, and more.