I wrote the Health And Safety chapter in the Traveling With Kids book. To do that, I used my own experiences of traveling pre-kids and my experiences traveling with my children in Europe and South America. I spent a lot of time reading the excellent information on travel medicine on the Centers For Disease Control website and I pored over many books on travel medicine. When we started thinking about medical preparations for our family world trip, I was pretty sure I knew what we needed. Even with that, I still felt it would be useful for us to meet with a doctor who specializes in travel medicine.
We made an appointment at the Travel Clinic at the University of Washington. I was more than a little surprised to learn that our pre-travel consultation would take three hours – not including time to get shots. It seemed a little excessive. The actual meeting was long but it was more than worthwhile. The UW, as with many educational institutions, is used to staff and students traveling to and from many disparate locations worldwide and they take their responsibility for the safety of travelers and the people who they may interact with on returning to Seattle very seriously.
The doctor had a ton of information ready for us. This included information sheets by disease and country e.g. Malaria in Ecuador as well as general information sheets on diseases such as Rabies. We got traveler’s checklists and by-country reports containing disease prevalences and risks, health and safety tips for that country and contact information for U.S. consulates. The data the doctor provided to us was from Travax which is a data-consolidation service used by doctors who specialize in travel medicine. Travax advertises that their data is updated weekly and is combined from a variety of sources including the State Department and the CDC.
Three hours was a long time to be in a doctor’s office with two sprawling tweens. Thankfully, they’d brought books with them. I was very impressed with how the doctor managed to do a thorough review of all the countries we plan to visit with my husband and I, ignoring my wriggly children for long stretches of time and then calling them to attention when she had something specific she wanted them to hear. For us, I felt that knowing our route and timeline (i.e. when we planned to be in which country) was an important thing to have locked down before meeting with the doctor. She was able to stick to recommendations for medications with seasonality in mind, keeping the amount of medication required to a minimum.
Travel Health And Safety Instructions For Children
The list of instructions below is the main reason why I’m glad CAM and BigB sat through the consultation with us. All of the items on this list are common-sense directives that their Dad or I might have given them anyway, but the way they sat up and paid attention to the doctor’s seriousness is a memory I know I’ll be referring them back to when we’re on the road.
1. Don’t pet or touch animals no matter how cute or friendly they seem. Rabies is a real threat in the developing world.
2. If you get bites or scrapes, let your parents know immediately. Pack a spare toothbrush and scrub any bites thoroughly for at least 20mins and then get to a major hospital quickly.
3. If it’s really hot and your parents tell you to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, you must do so. They’re trying to prevent you from getting malaria.
4. Don’t eat raw food. This includes fruits unless they’re peel-able. If you buy bottled water, make sure the seal on the bottle has not been tampered with.
Travel Shots And Medications
Our boys are up-to-date on all normal childhood immunizations. This turns out to be a great way to prepare for a trip since now they only need shots for Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis. Yellow Fever is a single shot, available for children over nine months. The boys are getting a new juvenile version of the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine which is administered in three shots.
Their Dad and I, on the other hand, being born before most of the usual childhood vaccines were widely administered (especially in Zambia in the late ’60s in Murph’s case), will be getting 6 shots each including HepA/B, MMR, Pertussis, and Tetanus – as well as Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis. Thankfully the typhoid vaccine can be taken orally.
What else is in the photo to the right? Doxycycline for malaria. Azithromycin to be taken with immodium for traveler’s diarrhea. Ciproflaxin as a general antibacterial and Bactroban, an antibacterial cream. We also have Acetazolamide for altitude sickness.
I’ll also be packing a copy of The Pocket Doctor in my bag when we leave.
Next up in terms of health and safety preparations: I’ll be researching insurance options both for medical and evacuation coverage. Funnily enough, even though I know that Travel Guard is a well known and usually highly regarded product in this space, the fact that the parent company is AIG makes me a nervous and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ll be using SquareMouth to do comparison shopping with other providers.
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That is wonderful that you have such a great resource in your area. Traveler’s medical clinics are usually only found in big cities. The links to CDC and Travax are very helpful for those of us who have to “manage” our doctors for the same info/treatment.
I found your article via your facebook page and I wanted to comment on a few things. I’m not a physician, though I am/was a travel agent (on hiatus to stay at home with my baby) and I specialized in travel to Antarctica and South America (Ecuador and the Amazon in particular) with a local company here in Seattle. I also volunteered in health ed. in the Peace Corps in the 90s (Congo).
As a parent, I fully support you in covering all your bases and being as thorough as you are. I did quickly want to mention that the yellow fever vax is pretty controversial in that most specialists who study it feel it is essentially not effective. But, better safe than sorry no doubt. Also, for an around the world trip – those are all the right vax for you personally- esp. pertussis which is quite common in developing nations. I’m not sure the MMR is really necessary, but again, better safe than sorry. One however that I might recommend if you will be in Africa or rural Asia is meningitis. It’s a tough vax though (really hurts at the injection site), but meningitis is still fairly prevalent.
Anyway, I wanted to recommend a good travel insurance company – Travelex. Their TraveLite program is great for trips not exceeding $10K per adult and it offers $50K or so in medical benefits and evac. If you are doing a longer trip like a round the world trip, their TravelPlus program is more suitable. The best thing about Travelex is that children under 16 are covered with a parent’s policy purchase (so essentially free), one policy per parent (I believe if you have more than 2 kids there is a supplement). We used to work with TravelGuard but just found that Travelex covered more for less. Travelex also has a good site- though I recommend for a more accurate quote you call them and speak to a rep. directly as the online quotes can be off base if you’re not sure what policy is best for you.
Have a fantastic adventure with your kids ! They will never forget it!
We bought our insurance as a bundle (ie travel and health together) so we have it already, from World Nomads. I’ll be going to our local travel health centre in London (in Trailfinders). It’ll be interesting to see what they recommend and if it’s different to the US.
@Lori Thanks for the tip!