by Michelle Duffy
Staying healthy on the road requires preparation before you leave, taking into consideration your destination and activities. This process is relatively simple if you’re traveling within North America or to other developed areas, and if you and your children are healthy with all vaccinations up to date. Less-developed regions require you to consider additional vaccinations and insurance. No matter the destination, be ready for the most unlikely events by having your family’s health and medical information at your fingertips. This ensures the safest journey for your precious cargo.
Prior to your trip, you’ll want to first organize your family’s medical records into four categories: emergency contacts, vaccinations, insurance and prescriptions and medications.
Begin by creating a contact list that includes your own doctor(s), your children’s pediatrician, and any dentists and ophthalmologists your family visits. Add any specialists seen in the past twelve to twenty-four months. Include your insurance provider and a brief medical history for each person, listing all known conditions and allergies, any current prescription medications, and any major illnesses or operations.
Each year, most schools require an updated vaccination record for all students. Add a copy of this to your child’s medical bio. Any additional shots received should be recorded on an International Certificate of Vaccination (commonly called “the yellow card”), which is issued by your doctor or travel clinic.
If you’re headed to a developing country, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information on what diseases may be prevalent, as well as for recommended vaccinations.
In addition to educating yourself on the CDC’s website, consult with your doctor and pediatrician on how to best prepare everyone, since your physicians will know your family’s medical history.
If your youngster has not yet completed his cycle of childhood immunizations, your doctor may recommend accelerating the schedule. Information on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ vaccination requirements can be found at the Childhood Immunization Support Program website. While some vaccinations are available in oral form (far more appealing to children), most are given as injections. Depending on where you are traveling, shots for hepatitis A and B, cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis may be suggested (or required, in the case of yellow fever). These inoculations may require one or more shots administered over a number of weeks or months. Give yourself plenty of time so that you can stagger any vaccinations your child might require.
For areas where malaria is prevalent, consult with your doctor about you and your child’s options. Anti-malarial drugs such as chloroquine must be specially prepared for kids, while others are not available to children due to the high possibility of adverse side effects. Those under eight shouldn’t take doxycycline, for example. Nor should older travelers who have a heightened possibility of sunburn. Use insect repellants and clothing impregnated with insect repellent. Always use a mosquito net.
Be aware that no matter what vaccinations you ultimately decide upon, it’s unlikely that your health insurance will cover those specifically recommended for travel.
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Michelle Duffy is an IT professional who, after 10 years in the dotcom world, left Amazon.com to spend more time writing, traveling and being with her family.
With her natural passion for travel, she and her husband left Dublin, Ireland in 1995. After exploring much of the Western U.S., they settled in Seattle with their two boys. Parenthood did not preclude Michelle’s intent to wander far and wide. She has traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe, South and Central America with her family. Her children have so far: visited Machu Picchu, explored Mayan Mexico, enjoyed the view from the Acropolis and marveled at the kangaroos in South Australia – as well as visiting many other fun destinations worldwide. Michelle is currently planning 15-month round-the-world trip with her family.
Michelle is the WanderMom blogger and co-author of Wanderlust and Lipstick: Traveling with Kids. Follow her on Twitter @wandermom