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Planning a Family Trip Abroad? Ensure Your Children Are Vaccinated

As families gear up for international adventures, from exploring Europe to embarking on African safaris or relaxing in tropical paradises, ensuring children are properly vaccinated is essential. According to Dr. Lauren Nguyen, a pediatrician affiliated with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Care Network, thorough preparation and timely vaccination are crucial steps in safeguarding your family's health while traveling.

Dr. Nguyen emphasizes the importance of planning ahead, recommending that families consult with their pediatrician approximately six weeks before their departure. "Meeting with your child's pediatrician to review travel plans and determine necessary vaccines is best done in person," says Nguyen, based in Torrance, California.

For up-to-date vaccine requirements and information on current outbreaks, Nguyen advises visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Travelers’ Health website. “The CDC website provides detailed information on the recommended vaccines for each country,” she explains.

In addition to any specific vaccines required by your destination, ensuring your child is current on routine vaccinations for illnesses like COVID-19, flu, and RSV is vital. Planning is particularly important as some vaccines necessitate multiple doses spaced weeks apart. Pediatricians may also need to order vaccines like those for yellow fever or typhoid, which are not always kept in large supply.

"Vaccines take about two to four weeks to elicit a full immune response," notes Nguyen. For instance, malaria prophylaxis involves daily pills that must be started two weeks prior to departure and continued throughout the stay and for a month afterward.

Vaccination schedules can vary based on age and specific travel requirements. Measles, for example, is seeing a resurgence globally. While children typically receive their first measles vaccine dose between 12 and 15 months and a second dose between 4 and 6 years, infants aged 6 to 12 months should get an early dose if traveling internationally. This dose should be followed by the standard schedule.

Hepatitis A, often contracted through contaminated food or water, usually requires vaccination between 12 and 23 months of age. However, infants aged 6 to 11 months should receive the hepatitis A vaccine if traveling to areas where the disease is prevalent. For infants under 2 months, international travel should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Meningitis A (MenACWY) is another critical vaccine, especially for those traveling on cruise ships or to areas with close-quarters interaction. Nguyen recommends that children be vaccinated against meningitis A before travel, and those aged 16 and older should also receive the meningitis B vaccine.

Cruise ships, even if not stopping at exotic ports, can be hotspots for infections. “The people you’ll be on the ship with might have been vacationing all over the world,” Nguyen explains, underscoring the importance of vaccinations to protect against illnesses passengers might bring on board.

In addition to vaccines, Nguyen advises packing essentials such as insect repellent, children's medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Benadryl), hydrocortisone cream, electrolyte-replacement powder, sunscreen, and your health insurance card. Ensuring you have adequate travel health insurance is also crucial for accessing care during health emergencies

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