Definition and Overview
Traveling to another country with the family, whether for business or a holiday, is certainly an exciting adventure. Unfortunately, diseases can quickly turn an adventure into a nightmare, especially for kids under the legal age. To minimize the risks of contracting diseases in a foreign country, it is best to schedule a pediatric travel medicine consultation well before the planned date of travel.
Despite being referred to as pediatric travel medicine consultation, the consultation isn’t for children alone. In fact, most services of this type are designed for the parents, guardians, and children who are traveling in a group. The consultation usually consists of three parts:
- Initial health assessment
- Advice and information on common diseases in the country of destination
- Immunizations and boosters
All travelers in the group need to undergo an initial health assessment to determine the health condition of each individual. If the initial assessment reveals an existing health issue, the doctor will provide advice on the necessary precautions that the traveler needs to take.
The group will also be advised on the risks of diseases at the country of destination. Exotic countries, such as those in the Far East and Asia, normally have a higher risk thus necessitating more precautionary measures. However, if the group plans to travel to far locations and those with high altitudes, the doctor will also explain the risks of certain conditions, such as jet lag and high altitude sickness.
During the initial health assessment, the doctor will ask for confirmation of current immunizations. If the country of destination requires more immunizations, these will also be given. It’s best to schedule the consultation at least six months before the planned date of travel because some immunizations require boosters to be more effective.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Knowing what to expect in a foreign country and being prepared for unexpected situations is the key to a pleasant holiday or business trip. Therefore, doctors advise that everybody who plans on traveling, especially children under the legal age, to undergo a travel medical consultation well in advance of the travel date.
The length of the consultation will depend on the health of the individual and the immunizations required. Those in perfect health and already have the basic immunizations would typically complete the consultation in less time.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Pediatric travel medicine consultations typically begin with a review of the medical history of each traveler and their history of immunizations.
The doctor will require the information about the intended destination to provide specific advice on the diseases that can be acquired in that particular country. For instance, if the country is not particularly known to provide potable tap water, the doctor would advise against water borne contaminants and diseases. When traveling to Asia or the Far East where mosquitoes are in abundance, doctors would provide information on diseases that are transferred by mosquitoes and other insects.
It would also be advisable to inform the doctor if the group intends to travel to high altitudes within that particular country. High altitude sickness may not seem like a dangerous condition, but if a traveler does not know how to handle the condition, the entire trip can turn into a nightmare not only for the person affected but also for the whole group.
Once the doctor has determined the required immunizations, each traveler will be immunized according to their needs. Typical immunizations include Hepatitis A and B, influenza, HPV, encephalitis, typhoid, yellow fever, and polio. In some cases, the country of destination will require a certain vaccine.
Risks and Possible Complications
Traveling to another country will always have risks in terms of health. If a minor is traveling with a known condition, it is imperative that his or her family or guardians are prepared with the medications needed. Knowledge of any travel restrictions on medications is also crucial. Bringing a copy of the medical certificate and the doctor’s prescription of the child is highly recommended, just in case authorities in the country of destination question the legality of such medications.
Other than undergoing a pediatric travel medicine consultation, obtaining health insurance information for each traveler is also important.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers' health: common travel health topics. Updated 10/23/2014. Available at: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/common-travel-health-topics. Accessed November 20, 2014.
Foodsafety.gov. Avoid foodborne illness when traveling abroad. Updated 10/5/2011. Available at: www.foodsafety.gov/blog/international_travel.html. Accessed November 20, 2014.