Children are more at risk of injury and illness abroad than adults; often suffering from various insect or animal bites, infestations, respiratory disorders febrile illnesses or various types of diarrhoea (although if the infant is being breastfed it is afforded some protection in this respect).
Before vaccinations for specific overseas areas are contemplated it is essential that the child’s UK vaccination schedule is up to date. Some travel vaccines are not licensed for younger children and therefore this may mean they are not covered for such diseases. It is important to be up to date with health risks in the area to be visited, so a travel consultation is essential.
Diarrhoea is more common in children than in adults (particularly toddlers who may not be walking, or tend to put fingers in mouth). Rehydration sachets therefore, are vital for the first aid kit. Children need to be observed for signs of dehydration, whether they have increased thirst, or dry mouth, or their urine output is decreased, or more serious symptoms including feeling weak, dizzy, light-headed, drowsy, or reduced tears when crying. In severe dehydration the eyes, cheeks, abdomen and fontanelle will appear sunken. There needs to be assured access to suitable drinking water to counteract this. If the child starts vomiting or develops a fever, or has faecal blood, medical advice must be sought to rule out malaria.
Rabies is more common in children than in adults, so the ‘don’t touch’ rule needs to be reinforced with children – even for animals that look dopey.
Notice must be taken of the malaria status of the destination area. Suitable measures need to be taken – DEET, impregnanted mosquito nets, anti-malarials etc.