Travelling safely with infants and children

The number of children who are travelling annually is around 1.9 million. This has been rising dramatically in the past years.

Children who are travelling face the same risks as their parents, with the most commonly reported problems being: diarrhea, malaria and motor vehicle and water accidents. A pre travel visit should be arranged to make sure your child is up to date with current vaccinations. An assessment of travel-activities can also be useful, along with special consideration for children who are visiting relatives or friends in developing countries. Taking a course in basic first aid could be very helpful for both children and adults.

Diarrhea is the most common illness associated with travel. Children are infants are very susceptible to this because of their weaker immune system. That fact that children will touch many things and put their hands in their mouth afterwards does not help. Diarrhea can present a problem in children and infants because they become dehydrated much faster than adults. Ways to prevent diarrhea include: Parents should use only purified water for drinking, preparing ice cubes, brushing teeth, and mixing infant formula and foods. Close attention should be paid to hand washing and cleaning pacifiers, teething rings, and toys that fall to the floor. When proper hand washing facilities are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used. Alcohol does not get rid of organic material; visibly soiled hands should be washed with soap and water. Fresh dairy products in developing countries may not be pasteurized and may be diluted with untreated water. For short trips, parents may want to bring a supply of safe snacks from home.

Adults travelling with children and infants should know the signs of diarrhea and whether it is necessary to see medical help. If symptoms such as signs of moderate to severe dehydration; bloody diarrhea; fever higher than 101.5° F (38.5° C), or persistent vomiting are present medical help should be sought. Dehydration should be treated with ORS, Oral Rehydration Solution. During this time foods such as starches, cereals, yogurts and fruits are recommended. Simple sugars, soft drinks, and sweated cereals can only aggravate the diarhhea.

Malaria on the other hand is a more serious and life threatening illness. Children who catch malaria can develop a high level of parasites in the body. They have an increased risk shock, seizures, coma and death. Travelling to areas where malaria is know to be present should be then carefully planned, as to be able to recognize the symptoms if the child does become infected. Medications for self treatment are available but they should be carefully administered depending on age and body weight.

Bugs and insects may also pose a serious threat to children. Some carry harmful viruses, while others may cause allergic reactions. Insect repellants are highly recommended for trips especially those in areas such as the rainforest.

Infections can also be acquired form the ground as children tend to fall down and play on the ground more than anyone. Worms and larvae are present on the ground and pose a threat to your child’s health.

Air travel can also be uncomfortable and painful for children and infants especially during descent. The equalization of pressure in the ear causes mild pain and discomfort. This can be avoided by chewing.

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