Kids Health Info

Travel health advice

  • Travelling with children should be great fun. For your family’s safety and security, we’ve prepared the following general information sheet. It is important that you visit your doctor or travel clinic at least 8 weeks before travel (the earlier the better) so that any necessary immunisations, letters, and forms can be completed.

     Depending on where you are travelling, when you are travelling, and for how long, additional immunisations may be available to protect your child from becoming ill.

     

    Routine immunisations

    The Australian immunisation schedule has been developed to protect children in Australia from a wide range of diseases. For many reasons, including poor local immunisation coverage, many of these diseases are more common overseas, making completion of the routine schedule even more important.

    Accelerated (early immunisations)

    Immunisations

     

    For a few conditions (for example, measles) immunisations ahead of travel may be recommended earlier than your child would normally receive them in the Australian schedule. In most cases, your child will still also need the dose at the time recommended in the schedule, but depending on your travel plans, early vaccines may offer safe and effective extra protection for serious diseases.

    Special travel immunisations

    There are many infectious diseases that are either not found in Australia or occur infrequently here. Some of these infectious diseases are preventable by immunisation that depending on your travel plans, may be recommended for your child. These include: hepatitis A vaccine; typhoid) vaccine; tuberculosis vaccine (BCG); rabies vaccine; yellow fever vaccine; and Japanese encephalitis vaccine. You should discuss the need for these vaccines with your doctor.

    Important travel advice

    Insurance

    Overseas medical care and medical evacuation can be extraordinarily expensive. Adequate travel insurance is very important for all travellers. If your child has a pre-existing medical condition, you may need to complete extra forms so arrange your travel insurance as early as possible. The Insurance Council of Australia has a helpful website, including for those with medical conditions (http://www.findaninsurer.com.au/category/36).

    Food & water safety

    Much more important than immunisations or medications, traveller’s diarrhoea is best prevented by ensuring that your child avoids contaminated food and drink. Bottled water (make sure your break the seal yourself), pasteurised milk and well-known soft drinks are safe to drink. If you need to sterilise water yourself, boil water for at least 2 minutes before cooling or you may use commercially available products (read the product information carefully). Avoid ice in drinks. Use sterilised or bottled water for brushing teeth. Eat only well-cooked food served straight after cooking. Do not eat raw seafood. Avoid salads, watermelon, reheated foods, food from street vendors, and cold appetisers and dips. Wash and peel fruits and vegetables with sterilised water. Do not eat locally produced cheese, ice cream, or yoghurt unless it is pasteurised. Remember to wash hands or use hand sanitiser before eating hand held foods.

     

    Traveller’s diarrhoea

    Good fluid intake is the most important treatment, particularly if there is vomiting or ongoing diarrhoea. If you are breastfeeding continue to do so but feed more often. For children under 12 with diarrhoea, or any traveller with fever or bloody stools, drugs such as “Imodium” or “Lomotil” should not be used. Your baby or child is infectious so wash your hands well with soap and warm water, particularly before feeding and after changing nappies, and keep away from other children as much as possible until diarrhoea has stopped. Your child may refuse food at first. This is not a problem as long as they are still taking fluids. Doctors now suggest there is no need to restrict food. Generally, if your child is hungry at any time, give them the food they feel like eating. Diarrhoeal disease can be serious so if your child is unwell it is important that they are assessed by a doctor. More information about managing diarrhoea and vomiting can be found at www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Gastroenteritis_gastro/

    Protection against mosquito-borne disease (including malaria, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Yellow fever and Dengue fever)

    Avoid malaria-transmitting mosquitoes by staying in rooms with screened windows and doors after sunset. When outside wear insect repellent on exposed skin - containing at least 30% DEET.

    • Do not allow children under 10 years to apply DEET themselves
    • Apply to your own hands then to child, apply to face by wiping not spraying
    • Avoid eyes and mouth, do not apply on hands of young children or other areas likely to come in contact with eyes or mouth
    • Follow other product instructions

    Wear light coloured clothing with long sleeves, pants, and socks. Sleep under an intact (permethrin treated) mosquito net that has been tucked under the mattress before nightfall. Clothing and mosquito nets should be pre-treated with a commercially available insect repellent. Use unscented cosmetics and toiletries, since mosquitoes are attracted to scented products

     

    Malaria

    Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease. If you are travelling to an area where malaria is a risk, follow the instructions for protection against mosquito-borne disease and, if recommended, take your prescribed malaria prophylaxis medication as directed. Discuss with your doctor or local travel clinic if you need to take medication and which would be best for you. Anti-malaria medicines do not give complete protection. There is a small chance that malaria may still develop, sometimes months later. The symptoms of malaria are headache, chills, shaking, fever, sweats and feeling ill. If these symptoms develop while you are travelling, see a doctor right away. When you are travelling to especially remote areas, “just in case” malaria medication may be recommended for your child to take while you take them to somewhere with healthcare facilities. If these or similar symptoms develop after your return, be sure to mention to your doctor that you have travelled to countries where malaria is present.

    Sunburn

    Many travellers will spend more time than usual in the sun. Protect your child by using plenty of sunscreen (minimum SPF 30+) applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, reapplied regularly, and always before insect repellent. A hat, sunglasses, light long pants and long-sleeve tops (like the locals!) will offer even more protection.

     

    Car and travel safety

    In Australia, compulsory use of car seats has reduced the incidence and severity of injuries to children in traffic accidents.  Car seats for children are frequently not available in many countries. You should consider taking a car safety seat/bassinet for your child when travelling. Different airlines accept different child restraint devices – it is a good idea to check with your airline before your trip. Always travel in cars and taxis that have functioning seat belts, where possible.

    Flying with children can be challenging. Everyone in the family should stay well hydrated and move around the plane regularly, especially on longer flights.

    Animal contact

    Travelling families with young children should avoid close contact with feral/wild animals. Rabies is one important condition that may be transmitted by animal bite (typically dog bites). In the event of an animal bite, seek immediate medical attention.

     

    Medical conditions and medicines

    • Children with medical problems should have a letter from their doctor including an explanation of their medical conditions, contact details for all your current doctors, and a complete list of required medical equipment and/or medications, including dose and generic name. Take the letter with you on board the plane.
    • A number of airlines require you to fill out forms relating to medical conditions – please contact your airline(s).
    • If your child takes regular medications or uses medical equipment regularly, take them on board the plane, as well as your list of medications. For long flights, check with your doctor whether you should adjust the timing of medications.
    • Investigate local healthcare facilities where you may take your child if necessary. These will usually be listed in travel books or accommodation booklets. Many destinations will have an international medical clinic/hospital with English-speaking staff.
    • For children under 12 with diarrhoea, or any traveller with fever or bloody stools, drugs such as “Imodium” or “Lomotil” are not recommended.
    • Prophylactic or “just in case” antibiotics are not recommended for children who are travelling, except in rare cases.
    • If recommended by your doctor, medication to reduce the risk of malaria (see “protection against mosquito-borne disease” below) should be obtained prior to travel and taken as directed.

    More resources

     

    PRE-TRAVEL CHECKLIST

    Pre-travel medical appointment (at least 8 weeks before your trip)                                         ☐

    Travel insurance                                                                                                                                   ☐

    Letter from your doctor (listing medical problems, medicines, equipment)                            ☐

    Car Seat                                                                                                                                                   ☐

    SPF30+ or greater sunscreen, and hat                                                                                              ☐

    Oral rehydration solution                                                                                                                   ☐

    DEET-containing insect repellent for travel to tropical areas                                                      ☐

    Bed nets and insect repellent treatment for clothing, for travel to tropical areas                   ☐

     

     

    Produced in consultation with the RCH General Medicine Department. First published 2014.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.