Kelli Shidler, M.D.
Nothing says “best family vacation ever” quite like adventurous wildlife excursions, exotic cuisine and beautiful foreign landscapes. However, nothing says “worst family vacation ever” like being near all of these things, but unable to enjoy them due to illness or a travel mishap.
Prior to an international vacation, it is very important that families have their vaccinations up-to-date. Not only will it protect you if you travel to a country with different health standards and diseases, but some countries require documentation of certain vaccinations before travelers are allowed to enter.
With young children, vaccine considerations are especially important due to their less mature immune system and the fact that some will require multiple doses over long periods of time. Talk to your pediatrician about how you can safely and effectively vaccinate your child before your trip.
When planning your trip, also visit with your pediatrician about health implications for your child, especially if he/she has a chronic health condition. Gastrointestinal or digestive complications affect infants and young children differently and often require different treatment than an adult. For this reason, parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s pediatrician about how to recognize and treat gastrointestinal difficulties.
Traveling to a foreign country is largely about taking a break from the ordinary and trying new things, but there are some experiences that just aren’t worth the inconvenience (like illnesses from foodborne and waterborne pathogens). Fortunately, if you are smart with your meal choices, you have a good chance of avoiding this tourist activity.
Do not eat raw food. This seems like a no-brainer, but depending on the location, this rule reaches beyond meats to include fruits and vegetables as well. Fruits are usually safe if you can peel them yourself. Avoid unpasteurized fruit juice, milk and milk products, such as cheese and yogurt.
Depending on where you are, tap water may not be safe for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth. This includes making formula for infants. The safest option is breastfeeding, but there are ways to make safe formula as well.