Thursday, December 14, 2017

Health Tips–Traveling Internationally with Kids


by Rose Yson-Zaragoza, M.D.
December 2011

Your dates are set, and everyone’s good to go! But before you hop on the road, be sure to consider the following things:

6-7 Months Before Travel
Know what vaccinations/preventive medications you will all need to have before or during your travel. Some countries require that you have certain vaccines documented before you can enter their country. Check the CDC’s Travel’s Health Destination webpage for vaccine recommendations specific to all countries/regions. Some vaccines, such as Hepatitis A, require a 6-month period to completion. Vaccinations that are not part of the routine U.S. Childhood Immunization Schedule are available at local travel clinics. Travel clinics, rather than your pediatrician, are best equipped to provide you with complete and accurate information about any vaccines or preventive medications you will need before, during, and after your travel. Check for Orange County’s Health Department travel clinic and a link to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Traveler’s Health website.

4-5 Months Before Travel

Find out how your health insurance coverage may/may not work in your destination area. If necessary and possible, obtain specific health insurance coverage to protect you while you’re there. And know, beforehand, where the closest local pediatric urgent care/medical care facility will be in your destination area, as well as how you will get there when you need it.

1-3 Months Before Travel
If you are traveling during the school year, find out what schoolwork your child will need to make up. Better yet, have them get it done before you leave! (Hey, if you can do all this prepping for the trip, they can too!)

Days/Weeks Before Travel
Prepare a backpack for each child, filled with quiet toys/diversion, books, and snacks that can be brought on a plane, train, or automobile. Other things to bring in your carry-on: acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and any prescription medications that you may potentially need during your travel, such as inhalers/chambers and Epipens. Remember, on an airplane, all liquids that you carry with you must be less than 3 ounces, and must fit inside a one-quart zip lock bag. And no, don’t try to adjust anyone’s internal clock to your destination’s time zone, yet.

During Your Travel
Try to stick to your child’s usual eating and sleeping schedules. While you’re en route to your destination, be sure you plan to let your child eat and nap (if he/she still does) at his/her usual times. If you’re taking a plane, train, or ship, factor in boarding times and long lines through security. If you’re flying, consider bringing the stroller to the gate, to be checked at the last minute to allow for nap time if it occurs during your wait to board. Bring snacks, but drinks other than infant formula are not allowed as a carry-on. Make sure your child has something to drink/swallow to minimize the effect of air pressure changes on the ears as the plane ascends or descends. Ask the stewardess for a cup of water, and tell her why you need it. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen in case of ear pain that cannot be alleviated by swallowing/drinking; this is more likely to happen if your child has a cold or sore throat.

And, if you’re fortunate enough to have a seat for your under-2-year old, bring their car seat on board; they’re more likely to relax in this familiar setting– perhaps even readily fall asleep if the timing is right! And don’t forget to schedule in some activity breaks– get everyone moving! Most kids and adults cannot sit in one position for more than an hour or two, unless they’re sleeping. Plus, extended sitting in some individuals can lead to deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the legs. These are dangerous in and of themselves, but can lead to an even more life-threatening situation such as pulmonary embolism or stroke. So get up out of your seat and walk around (e.g. go to the restroom), if you can. If not, then do some leg/arm stretches while in your seat, every hour or two.

When You’re There
Give yourself time to enjoy your surroundings for a little bit–but, especially with kids, be sure to keep the first day’s activities brief, if at all. Now would be the time to start adjusting to your new timezone. Give it a few days and be sure to let natural sunlight and darkness work on your natural diurnal rhythm. Hopefully, after that, it’s all smooth sailing…and lots of fun!

The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.