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Travelling with young children

Before leaving
Before leaving

For all the information you need to know about your child and his/her particular situation, consult with your physician two months before leaving. It goes without saying that some destinations are completely inappropriate for young children.

Prepare a “child specific” medical kit in addition to your own that contains anti-pyretics (in liquid or powder form), rehydration packs, sterilization tablets (for baby bottles), anti-vomiting medication, single-dose antiseptics, an unbreakable thermometer and saline solution. However, beware that any self-administered medication, without the advice of your doctor, can be very dangerous. It is essential to verify with your doctor the recommended amounts, instructions for use and compatibility.

Remember to pack everything that your child might require in your own luggage, as well as water for the trip, children’s sun block, a sunhat, authorized inflatable arm and body buoys, mosquito repellent (be sure to ask your pharmacist as some repellents are not recommended for children) and a repellent-impregnated mosquito netting.

Choosing a destination

It is wise in all cases to choose a travel destination where you will be sure to receive a high level of health and sanitary care.

You should not travel with young children to most tropical countries unless it is absolutely necessary.

Vaccinations

Consult your child’s vaccination booklet before leaving and have your family doctor make sure that your child’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccination requirements might vary according to the country in which you live. Many national health authorities require shots for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping-cough. Often, shots for the measles, tuberculosis and meningitis are not required. However, be sure to check with your doctor. It’s always preferable to have your child tested for tuberculosis before leaving, particularly if you will be travelling for a long period of time.

Specific vaccinations:

  • In some countries, it’s obligatory to have a vaccination against yellow fever; this vaccine, administered in authorized centres, can be given to infants at 6 months, but it is only obligatory for children 1 year and older. Beware! This vaccine is not recommended for children with allergies to eggs. 

  • There have been some cases of typhoid fever found in children returning from North and Central Africa, even after only a short stay. An anti-typhoid vaccination is strongly recommended and very efficient for children 5 years and older. 

  • Discuss with your doctor about a Hepatitis B vaccination. This will depend on where you are going. 

  • The Hepatitis A vaccine can be given as of 1 years old. It is particularly recommended for children going to North Africa. 

  • An anti-cholera vaccination is unnecessary.

  • An anti-meningitis vaccine can be recommended for children 18 months and older travelling to high-risk regions during the high-risk dry season. In case of an epidemic, this vaccine can be administered to infants 3 months and older. Discuss this with your family doctor.

In case of an early or rushed departure, certain vaccine associations or combinations are possible. Vaccines can be injected the same day in different places.

Malaria prevention

It is strongly advised against travelling to a malaria endemic zone. If you cannot put off your journey, it is of primary importance that you protect yourself and your children from mosquito bites, notably by using a repellent-impregnated mosquito netting around your beds at night. Your children should wear long clothing when they sleep and use mosquito repellents on all exposed parts of their body. Ask your doctor or paediatrician for advice, as some repellents are not recommended for children. Your doctor will even be able to prescribe a preventive treatment adapted for your child that should be kept out of their reach.

If you have any problem while travelling, don’t wait until you get home to consult a doctor. The regulating doctor of your assistance company is available to discuss any questions or doubts you may have about your health. He/she can provide useful advice, contact your family doctor and organize a consultation wherever you are.

Feeding your infant while travelling

A mother’s milk is the best food for infants up to 6 months old. If you nurse your baby, lactation may subside while travelling, so be sure to take along bottles and formula milk as a supplement, as well as bottles of water for the trip. Preparing baby bottles requires particular care: the water should be purified (unless of course you can find sealed bottled mineral water at your destination) and the bottles sterilised. Before leaving, find out whether or not you can buy baby food where you are going (formula milk for newborns and very young infants, bottled baby food, etc.)

To prevent diarrhoea, be particularly vigilant about washing your hands with soap and water before and after every meal, after using the toilets and before going to bed at night. Keep fingernails cut short. Children should only be allowed to eat and drink in their family’s company. Pay special attention to their food: only give them bottled drinks, never with ice, and give them cooked foods, or dairy products that clearly indicate where they were manufactured and that have not suffered a break in the cold chain. Peel all fruits and avoid eating any raw vegetables.

In case of diarrhoea, food intake should be modified until the stools are back to normal. Have your child drink lots of water, and often, to avoid dehydration. Give him/her the hydration solution you brought with you or prepare your own solution by combining 5 teaspoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt in 1 litre of water. During the first six hours, the child’s bottles will be replaced by the oral hydration solution in sufficient quantity. After that, 20% of the supplementary liquid will be added to the habitual baby bottles. If you are nursing, and in between your nursing sessions, give your child plenty of rehydration liquid or pure water to drink. In case of vomiting, you should give your child the rehydration solution in a small spoon and increase the frequency. An older infant should eat foods that include lean meats or fish cooked without fats, rice, pasta, potatoes, plain carrots, hard cheese, bananas, apple sauce, apple/quince compote or apple/banana compote, dry biscuits or toast. On the other hand, avoid giving your child dairy products such as yogurts and cream-based desserts, milk, other fruits and vegetables not mentioned above, whole grain cereals, delicatessen meats, meat in sauce and fried foods.

During the trip

Here are a few precautionary measures to follow: 

  • While in the airplane, have your child drink from its bottle during take-off and landing. Avoid long excursions in cars or buses, particularly in very hot climates. 

  • Absolutely protect your child from the sun: keep him/her in a shady, well-ventilated place. Give him/her plenty of water to drink and have them wear a sun hat, sun block and appropriate clothing. You should not expose a child less than six months of age to the sun.

  • Dress you child preferably in lightweight, easy-to-wash, permeable clothing (cotton, linen…).

  • Never allow your child to walk barefoot, particularly on sand or humid ground, as these surfaces can contain animal droppings, larva, insects, waste or rubbish. Be sure your child wears appropriate “beach” shoes. 

  • Remain alert at all times, notably when your child is swimming or near the water: pools and other swimming areas always present dangerous risks for children. A young child can drown in only a few inches of water. 

  • Due to the risk of parasites, do not allow your child to swim or play in ponds or rivers.

  • Never let your child play with animals he/she may meet along the way. They may bite your child and be infected with rabies.