If you're planning to travel with your family this summer, you should make sure your children are up to date with their vaccinations.
Getting sick while on vacation can really put a damper on the fun.
Vaccinations are safe and can help your child stay healthy all summer long.
Mark Sawyer, MD, a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist at the UCSD School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, shares great information about the importance of getting your children vaccinated before an illness puts a damper on your family's summer plans.
RadioMD Presents: Healthy Children | Original Air Date: April 22, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Mark Sawyer, MD, FAAP
This is Healthy Children brought to you by The American Academy of Pediatrics on RadioMD.com. Here's Melanie Cole, MS.
MELANIE: Are you traveling somewhere with your children and you're not sure if it's a place--maybe you're going to Greece, maybe you're going to Turkey. I don't know. Maybe you're going on a safari in Africa. Do you wonder if there are vaccines, certain things that you might need to consider? Maybe checking that the normal vaccines that you get are up to date before traveling anywhere, even to Canada.
My guest is Dr. Mark Sawyer. He's the Medical Director of the UCSD-San Diego Immunization Partnership.
Welcome to the show Dr. Sawyer.
So, tell us a little bit about the vaccinations that we might have to be thinking about if we are going to travel with our children.
MARK: Well, you said it correctly. The most important thing that parents need to do is just make sure that their children are up to date with the routine immunizations that we give here in the United States. Those are the most important diseases that we need to protect against, starting with measles because measles is very prominent around the world. And there is a special recommendation that if you are traveling outside of the United States with a young infant, that the measles vaccine given as a combination of MMR vaccine be given at six months of age, whereas, normally we wait until 12 months of age. That's to give a little added protection to infants as they're traveling. The other routine vaccines that we give here but are particularly important when you travel are Hepatitis A vaccine which is transmitted through food and is very common around the world. The pertussis or whooping cough vaccine given as DPAP and then, for older children and children traveling to particular areas of the world, the vaccine that prevents the disease called Meningococcal Disease. This is a vaccine that we give normally to adolescents but for infants traveling, we sometimes recommend that as well.
MELANIE: Now, some of these vaccines--the routine ones-- it is definitely important to make sure. An even possibly, Dr. Sawyer, do you recommend bringing the vaccination sheet if you are traveling abroad and having your doctor-signed sheet that your children have been vaccinated?
MARK: Yes. You should certainly bring the record with you. There are certain jurisdictions that are going to want to see that your child is immunized against certain things before you can enter the country. And you do need to plan ahead a little bit for this. What a lot of pediatricians find is that parents wait until just a week or two before they're traveling and suddenly go, Aha! Maybe my child needs vaccines.” And for some of these vaccines, they need to be given longer before that to really make sure they're effective by the time that you travel.
MELANIE: Is it good advice to ask your doctor if you're traveling to a country with a certain risk of something, as you said, measles, or meningitis or even something like malaria? You know there are these things that are in places that we don't see here anymore. How do we know?
MARK: Right. It's very important to know exactly where you’re going, what your itinerary is and share that with your physician or if you go to a travel clinic because the recommendations are very specific even within a certain county. It depends on exactly where in that country you are going. There are special travel vaccines that we give to children for Yellow Fever, for example. There's the disease called Japanese Encephalitis which is a common in Asia and we give typhoid vaccine but those vaccines are only given when you're traveling to certain very specific countries. So, you need to know exactly where you're going to go to help your doctor decide what vaccines your child should get.
MELANIE: If you get your vaccines, you have your children vaccinated and you are traveling, especially to a foreign country, do you, Dr. Sawyer, recommend bringing with you prophylactic medication such as an antibiotic or something along those lines just in case it's hard to get that stuff where you are going?
MARK: Yes. So, in addition to vaccines, most physicians and travel clinics will provide you with a prescription for one or two different antibiotics that you can take when you get certain symptoms that would suggest an infection from the country you are traveling to and you mentioned malaria earlier. Malaria is very important to prevent because it can be very serious, particularly in young children, so we have medications that can be taken to prevent malaria. Some of those need to started before you travel, so that's why it's important that you think ahead and visit your doctor or your travel clinic at least a month or two before you're actually leaving.
MELANIE: And would you know these things before you go? Do you research these diseases? If you're in Africa, for example, malaria can that be spread by mosquitoes? Do you worry about that stuff? Is it enough to keep you from traveling to these places?
MARK: In general, we don't discourage parents from traveling with their children. The one exception, or at least the one situation in which pediatricians and parents need to have a careful discussion, is for very young babies. Some of the vaccines can't be used in very young babies. Some of the medications also are not approved for very young babies so traveling with an infant is a special circumstance that requires a discussion but in general traveling with your children to foreign countries is a safe thing to do as long as you follow the recommendations for vaccines and medications. You mentioned mosquitoes. They're certainly responsible for transmitting malaria but they also transmit some other infections that people may not have heard of like Dengue. And we don't have a vaccine for that, so the way to prevent infection with that is to avoid mosquito bites and there are things that people can do for their children to decrease their chance of being bitten by a mosquito.
MELANIE: Are other countries such as Europe, France, England, Italy, or even some of the islands… A lot of people take a cruise. They go to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, or Jamaica. Do you worry about any of those so-called regular places to visit?
MARK: Yes. For sure. I mean that is where most of our measles cases actually come back to the United States from Europe. People don't think that Europe is a place to worry about getting anything but there are certainly big outbreaks of measles there. In fact, Canada right now is continuing to have an outbreak that probably started with our outbreak in the United States and spread to Canada and it's continuing right now. So, the general recommendation is anytime you leave the United States, no matter where you're going is that you need to make sure your vaccinations are up to date and then, for certain countries, as we've discussed, there are medications and other procedures to take to make sure that your children are safe when you travel.
MELANIE: You've mentioned travel vaccine centers. Do we not just go to our normal pediatrician if we're thinking of traveling somewhere even if it's just out of the country? Is there a specific place you'd like us to check out or for information to go to find out this stuff?
MARK: Well, you should certainly start with your pediatrician. And depending on where you're going, your pediatrician may be able to provide you everything you need. But there are certain of the specialized vaccines. For example, Yellow Fever vaccine, which is only given in special clinics and if you're traveling to a place where that vaccine is required, you're probably going to have to go to a travel clinic in order to get that. But your pediatrician will know where the travel clinics are in your community. The best resource for parents who want to read ahead of time and anticipate what they need is to go to the Center for Disease Control, CDC, or cdc.gov is the website. And they have an excellent travel site which for every single country breaks down what you need in terms of vaccinations, what you need in terms of medication and special procedures that you should follow with regard to travel to those countries. And, in fact, that website will even tell you that maybe you shouldn't travel to that country right now unless you really need to --for example, the countries that are experiencing the outbreaks of Ebola. We don't want people going on a holiday to an Ebola country right now.
MELANIE: That's great information. Wrap it up for us, Dr. Sawyer. Your best advice for parents with children considering traveling whether it's to Canada, or Europe or someplace farther and vaccine information you want them to know.
MARK: The most important thing is just make sure that your child is up to date with the routine vaccines that we give here in the United States. Check with your pediatrician and know your destination. Know exactly where you’re going, even where you are going inside of a country, so they can help you design the right protection both in terms of vaccines and antibiotics and malaria prevention so that our child will be safe and you’ll have a great holiday.
MELANIE: And make sure you take any records of vaccinations with you. Keep a copy on you. You know, make sure you have these up to date so that if you are asked you can provide proof of vaccination. And you are getting this great information right here on Healthy Children. Our expert guests are provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics. If you missed any of the great information you can listen anytime on Demand or On the Go at RadioMD.com
This is Melanie Cole. Thanks for listening and stay well.