Family summer holiday tips
We speak to Dr Gordon Bland at the Dubai London Clinic
Which countries require additional vaccinations from the standard ones kids have already had?
Check your child’s medical records, because the requirements for certain countries differ. For example, children in Australia are given the Hep B vaccine – but children who have been vaccinated in the UK, aren’t. Another essential vaccination, if you are travelling to some parts of Africa and South America, is yellow fever, which can’t be given to infants under 12 months of age. If you need a yellow fever jab, you even have to make sure that proof of the vaccination is stamped in your passport.
How long prior to travel should you begin having your necessary jabs?
I would advise patients start their vaccinations at least six weeks beforehand – but longer would be better. This is because you need to leave a gap of approximately four weeks between each vaccination, and some vaccines need an incubation period of up to a fortnight, before they will be fully effective.
Is malaria medication something we need to worry about? Is it safe for kids?
In some parts of Africa and South East Asia, malaria medication is strongly advised, but in other areas, it’s not so necessary. Research your destination online and find out what is required. There are malaria medications out there that are safe for kids too – so there are options that can be worked with. With all kids under the age of 12 months, it can be a bit tricky – but certainly with toddlers, there are doses that can be worked out, taking their weight into account.
What first aid items should we pack?
It’s hard to prepare for all emergencies, but you can put a kit together that would suit minor bumps and ailments. It’s worth sitting down with your doctor if anyone in your family has health issues, because there might be other things you should add; like medications for asthma control or antibiotics for potential tummy bugs.
What research should every parent do prior to travel?
If you’re going the five star hotel route, chances are your hotel will be able to give you all that information. However, if you are backpacking, budget travel, staying in other people’s houses or using rental accommodation, it’s a good idea to find out where your nearest clinic or hospital is located. It’s also helpful to find out how you pay for treatment, if travel health insurance is accepted there, or if you need another form of cover.
What common sense practices can parents adopt?
Sometimes we end up doing crazy things simply because we’re outside of our normal environment. Making sure you all stay hydrated, use sun cream properly and stay out of midday heat would be one consideration. Being aware and using insect repellant, as well as considering changes in time zones which can, particularly for kids, make them more susceptible to infection, would be really good too.
What are good hygiene practices we should all adhere to when travelling?
Hand washing is a really important part of travel. It’s essential to take hand sanitizers with you so that you can use them before and after handling food, or if you come into contact with animals, for example. When you’re preparing for a meal, look at the food source and ask, ‘How did this get to me? Has it been prepared by someone who hasn’t washed their hands themselves? Have they kept their cooking environment clean?’ Try to have some awareness of the food preparation environment. Also, watch your water supplies. In some countries, it’s important to drink bottled water only, while in other places, the water supplies are very safe to drink.
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