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Consider Kids' Health on Tropical Trips

Make sure shots are up to date and avoid local dangers, expert advises

THURSDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Jetting off to sunnier climes this winter, kids in tow?

If so, take steps to guard the little ones' health, advises an expert.

"The most common infectious disease threats to children traveling to underdeveloped, tropical regions of the world may result from exposure to contaminated food and water, and disease carrying insects. With the help of available destination-specific vaccines such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever and yellow fever, parents can feel more comfortable traveling with young children," Dr. Andrea Summer, an associate professor of pediatrics at Medical University of South Carolina, said in an ASTMH news release.

In addition, children should be up to date on all routine vaccinations, including an annual flu shot.

Vaccines are just one way to protect children, and parents need to take other precautions. Summer offered the following tips:

  • Avoid contact with animals. In developing countries, animals often aren't vaccinated and can carry a number of transmittable diseases, including rabies.
  • Use bed nets, long pants, long sleeve shirts and DEET-based repellents to protect against mosquitoes, which can carry diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
  • Beware of toxins such as insecticides, lead-based paints, rodent bait, and plants and flowers that may be poisonous.
  • If children are going to be playing in water, parents need to bring proper safety devices, such as life preservers, which are not available in many underdeveloped and rural areas.
  • Parents should also bring a child car seat or booster seat with them, since they aren't always available in developing countries.

"Prevention doesn't end when travelers return home. There are various post-travel symptoms, such as fever, persistent or bloody diarrhea, and respiratory infections that parents should watch for in children, as they can be indicators of a more serious problem and require immediate medical attention," Summer said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about children and travel.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, news release, December 2008

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