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Staying Healthy While you Travel

When your family travels and is away from the usual eating and sleeping routines, the chances increase that someone might get sick. It can take time to adjust to the food, water, and air in a new environment, and kids can be especially vulnerable to a variety of travel-related problems, including motion sickness, diarrhea, and infections.

But some early planning and smart packing can help you keep the trip healthy for everybody. Here are some things to keep in mind when your family prepares to travel.

Special Considerations for Travel Abroad

If you're heading overseas, start preparing well in advance. For instance, it's important to find out what vaccinations your kids (and even you) might need because:

  • Different countries have different risks and requirements and may require specific vaccines. For example, your family will need the yellow fever vaccine if you're traveling to sub-Saharan Africa or tropical South America, but not to Eastern Europe.
  • Some vaccines require more than one dose and are given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks.
  • Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body.

Most immunizations should be given at least 1 month before travel, so try to schedule a doctor's visit 4-6 weeks before your trip. Even if you're leaving in less than 4 weeks, you should still make an appointment, as kids might still benefit from shots or medications.

Depending on your travel plans, your doctor may recommend that in addition to routine immunizations, you and/or your child be vaccinated against:

  • typhoid
  • hepatitis A and B
  • yellow fever
  • Japanese B encephalitis
  • meningitis
  • rabies

Also, kids of any age can get malaria so if you're traveling to a country with a malaria risk, talk to your doctor about antimalarial drugs. The doctor will decide the best preventative medication based on your destination and your child's health status.

Ask your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of recommended or required vaccinations (the site includes a section devoted to travelers' health that you can search by destination), and be sure to take your child's immunization records with you if you're traveling internationally.

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