It’s important to prepare months in advance before you travel outside the United States. I always start at http://www.cdc.gov/travel to review specifics about traveling to different countries. Being up to date on routine vaccines is a must! Sometimes there are additional vaccines like typhoid, yellow fever, and boosters for certain childhood diseases like polio. These should be given well ahead of the trip so the body can develop antibodies in response. That said, it’s never too late, so don’t skip a chance to update anything that may make for a healthier, safer trip.
Mosquito-borne illnesses are a special problem and malaria medications are recommended for many places. These are generally started one week before travel and continued for another four weeks after returning.
Avoiding mosquitoes is key since insect bites put travelers at risk for more than just malaria. There’s Dengue, chikagunya, as well as West Nile virus. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Staying indoors with screens helps. Use protective clothing, insect repellent and/or netting. Sleeping nets can be purchased at outdoor stores and soaked with permethrin for added effectiveness. Choose insect repellents carefully. They shouldn’t contain more than 30% DEET to be used on children.
Travel Insurance and Health Insurance: Many health insurance policies restrict coverage if you are out of your home state or out of the country. Kids and adults can get sick, plans may have to change, and you may need to seek medical care away from home. For anything less than an emergency, call the number on your insurance card for contracted physicians. You can search for board certified pediatricians on the American Academy of Pediatrics website: http://www.aap.org
Pack your carry on right. Start with important papers, medications, change of clothes, and toothbrush. For those in the office who remember Nancy, our nurse who retired to the mountains, take her advice: put the bathing suit in the carry on too. Why miss out on the fun if your checked luggage goes astray?
Food and Water
Use bottled water only outside the US, for drinking and for tooth brushing. There are fun viruses and worse just about everywhere. You may want to consider checking the integrity of the bottle in some locations. Water comes in different forms, so remember, no ice in beverages!
When eating, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
I’m guilty of packing more medical stuff than most people, it’s a doctor thing.
My first aid kit includes:
Benedry/diphenhydramine: for allergic reactions. I don’t recommend this for children who are flying because some kids get hyper when they take it and to get enough sedation from a medication, you are risking respiratory depression: not something you want on an airplane.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and/or fever
Advil or Motrin (ibuprophen) for pain and/or fever
Powdered sport drinks if I’m going far afield and tummy symptoms set in
1% hydrocortisone ointment for itchy rashes and eczema
antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes–bacitracin is a good one
petroleum jelly as a moisturizer
Sunblock: ideally with a minimum of 4% zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for best protection
I have a terrific compact Backpackers first aid kit from an outdoor store. Watch out for sharp items inside it that you might have to check.
This post is not intended to provide medical advice. Always consult with your physician about your family’s medical needs.