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Traveling Safely With Infants And Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

The number of children who travel or live outside their home countries has increased dramatically. An estimated 1.9 million children travel overseas each year. Health issues related to pediatric international travel are complex, reflecting varied activities, exposures, and age-specific health risks.

While some travel health concerns are similar for children and adults, international pediatric travelers have unique problems because of variable immunity and different age-based behavior; for example, a newly mobile toddler will have different health risks than a sexually active adolescent. Furthermore, many travel-related vaccinations and preventive medications used for adults are not licensed or recommended for pediatric use.

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Although data about the incidence of pediatric illnesses associated with international travel are limited, studies of pediatric travelers have reported serious morbidity and mortality. The most common reported health problems are diarrheal illnesses, malaria, and motor vehicle- and water-related accidents.

Children who are visiting family and relatives living in developing countries are at high risk for a variety of travel-related health problems, including malaria, intestinal parasites, and tuberculosis. In addition, travelers visiting friends and relatives are less likely to seek pre-travel preventive care. Adults and older children should consider taking a course in basic first aid prior to travel.

Clinicians should obtain a complete assessment of travel-related activities and provide preventive counseling and interventions tailored to specific risks. Adults traveling with young children should be counseled to monitor the children carefully for signs of illness. Irritability may be a response to changes in time zone and environment but may also indicate illness in young children. Excessive or persistent irritability, fevers, or signs of dehydration should be evaluated promptly. Children with chronic diseases or immunocompromising conditions require travel preparations and treatment tailored to their specific underlying condition.

By CDC: Health Information For International Travelers - Yellow Book, Chapter 8, Introduction