If you’re planning your summer holiday, take note that some nearby hotspots, particularly in Asia and the Indian sub-continent, may require vaccinations before you go. Jabs should be given at least four to six weeks prior to your holiday for optimum uptake so now is the time to get these organised if you want to be fully covered while you’re away.
First things first, though, you need to make sure your kids’ normal childhood immunisations are up to date. Diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) are all recommended by the Dubai Health Authority. Don’t forget your own vaccinations either. Parents are diligent about their kids’ record but often neglect themselves, and who will look after your children if you become ill while you’re away?
Pesky mosquitoes have a lot to answer for. Their bites, aside from being itchy and annoying, can also infect you with malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and Japanese B encephalitis. Prevention is better than cure, so try to avoid being bitten by the blighters in the first place by following these tips:
• Mosquitoes often bite in the early evening. Wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts even when sleeping.
• Use an anti-mosquito cream or spray all over (mosquitoes may bite through thin material) and check the repellent is suitable for kids.
• Mozzies hide in curtains and under beds so spray your room with an insecticide in the early evening and use mosquito coils and plug-in devices.
• Sleeping under a mosquito net is essential in a high-risk country. Before you leave Dubai, purchase a portable one to take with you.
• Keep ceiling fans on overnight. A mosquito will find it harder to land if there is an air current.
If the persistent beggars get you, use an antihistamine cream as soon as possible on the bite (herbal creams such as tiger balm are also effective). Some people benefit from taking oral anti histamines, but watch out: not all are suitable for small children.
Malaria is a widespread disease found in tropical and subtropical climates including many African safari hotspots, vast swathes of India, including Goa, plus parts of Thailand and Malaysia. There is no vaccination but you can protect yourself and your family by taking anti-malarial medication.
Mefloquine is the most commonly available in Dubai. Take advice from your doctor, but often tablets need to be taken up to three weeks prior to travelling and usually for four weeks after your return. Not all anti-malarial medication is suitable for kids. Your doctor will advise you.
If you or your child become unwell following your holiday – even up to a year after you return – tell your doctor you have visited a country where malaria is common.
Vaccinations against yellow fever are given to people travelling to certain areas in Africa and South America at least two weeks before travel and only at a yellow fever centre (try Al Maktoum Hospital 04 222 1211). You will be issued with a certificate which will allow you to travel to your destination and may also be required for your visa application. The vaccine is valid for 10 years but is not recommended for babies under one year old or for pregnant women.
Hepatitis A, an infection of the liver, is spread through contaminated water and food, especially shellfish, or through person to person contact where hygiene is poor. It occurs worldwide, mostly in areas with poor sanitation: Asia, Africa, South America and the Indian subcontinent are all hotspots. The vaccination is usually given in two doses. It’s important you get the second dose within a year to maintain immunity.
Typhoid is common in countries with poor sanitation where drinking water (and ice cubes) may be contaminated, such as Africa, the Indian Sub-continent, South-East Asia and South America. The vaccination is valid for three years and given as a single dose.
A reaction to a vaccination is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows the body recognises an imposter and is working hard to destroy it and build an immunity to protect itself should it encounter the same again. Whether it manifests itself as a grizzly baby, a mild fever, or a localised redness to the vaccination site, it should normally last around 24 hours. It is typically resolved with an early night for an out-of-sorts child, perhaps with a dose of simple paracetamol suspension. If you’re concerned, contact your doctor.
Rachel Jex runs First Aid Courses at Family First and is clinic nurse at the Keith Nicholl Medical Centre (04 394 1000). Consult Rachel or your travel nurse or visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk for information and travel advice.