Keeping your family healthy on the road is one of the biggest responsibilities of traveling with children, and is one of the major reasons why so many would-be vagabond families are scared into staying home. But, speaking from experience, I have to say that dealing with family health issues abroad is not nearly the challenge that it may seem from afar: the medical facilities of almost all countries in the world have been improving rapidly over the past couple of decades, and adequate care is available almost everywhere.
The US propaganda machine may say otherwise, but I’ve been there (too many times to want to recollect), and I know that I can get suitable treatment for most medical issues abroad for a scant portion of the price it would cost in my home country (or, often, for free). Though I must say that prevention is key when dealing with travel health.
The follow tips are from my wife, Chaya, about how to stay healthy when traveling the world as a family:
- Before you go research diseases and vaccines…carefully. The decision about whether or not to vaccinate is a really important and personal one. You might want to avoid going to certain areas where there are diseases for which there are no vaccines, vaccines aren’t approved for young children or you don’t feel comfortable giving your child the vaccine. Take this into consideration when planning your trip. Remember that if you do want to vaccinate your child, sometimes you need several shots spaced out over a period of a few months in order for the vaccine to be effective, so start researching early.
- Bring your pharmacy. Necessities include a thermometer, children’s Tylenol or ibuprofen, alcohol wipes to sterilize the thermometer, sunscreen, insect repellent approved for children, children’s allergy medicine if needed, something for traveler’s tummy, children’s electrolyte powder in case of diarrhea, hydrocortisone cream, bandaids (I’ve had to run out in the dark with the baby looking for these when my husband sliced his finger open), tweezers, nail clippers.
- As soon as you arrive in a new location, scope out where the nearest hospital is, and ask around for recommendations about a pediatrician, just in case. Having a sick kid is stressful, deciding if you need to take her to a doctor in a foreign country is even more stressful, don’t add trying to locate one to the things you need to do.