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Doctor's tips for families travelling with children: Ensure your travel medicine kit and vaccinations are up to date before you fly

Published
9.10.2015 at 06:00
Fill your kit with familiar medicines, and remember that the basic set of vaccinations will take you far. A minor seasonal cold doesn't have to stop you from flying.

Families travelling with kids should pack some paracetamol, antihistamine, mild cortisone cream, and diarrhoea medication. If it looks like a cold could be on the way, bring nasal and ear drops as well.

Disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen products are also essentials.

Relief for earache caused by pressure changes

Changes in the pressure felt during take-off and particularly when landing can be prevented in a number of ways. If you feel at all stuffy, it is a good idea to start opening those nasal cavities with drops a few days before you fly. Children can be given numbing ear drops before take-off; they won't do any harm anyway.

The old tricks, such as swallowing and fake yawning, can help on the aeroplane. Chewing gum or eating something during take-off and landing can also be helpful.

You could ask a flight attendant to give your child 'Mickey Mouse ears', disposable cups with paper towels dampened with hot water on the bottom, to place on the little one's ears. At least these will make them feel reassured.

Which vaccinations do your children need?

The requirements differ depending on where you are travelling. For the most common destinations, a child is fine with vaccinations normally given to them in Finland.

If you are headed somewhere more exotic, you have to check the requirements more carefully. For instance, yellow fever immunisation is needed for some countries.  You can check country-specific requirements on the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) website.

MPR vaccinations can be given even to children under one year of age. There have been outbreaks of measles in Germany and the US this year, for example. Measles is an extremely contagious illness.

THL recommends that any children travelling abroad be given their first dose of MPR already at the age of six months, although the first dose isn't usually given until the child is one. MPR provides protection against measles, mumps, and German measles.

Lately cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis have been reported in India and some other areas. In spite of this, children in Finland are not recommended the TB vaccine, but it should be considered for those travelling to risk areas.

If your destination is in the Baltics or central Europe and you plan to spend a lot of time in nature, you are advised to ensure your child is protected against tick-borne encephalitis. The set includes three doses of vaccine.

THL also recommends the seasonal flu vaccine for children under 3 visiting any country.  Even if the flu season is over in Finland, a virus is always active somewhere in the world.

Diarrhoea prevention

Children are more susceptible to tummy upsets than grown-ups. These are best prevented, as the little ones are less tolerant to dehydration.

Probiotic products can help prevent diarrhoea. The course should be started a few days before travelling and continued throughout the trip. Probiotics also shorten the duration of any diarrhoea, decrease the number of diarrhoea bouts, and relieve dehydration.

However, if you do get diarrhoea, the best treatment is to drink plenty of liquids. Pharmacies sell drinks for diarrhoea, but you can easily make some by mixing six teaspoons of sugar and one of salt in a litre of bottled water.

Drinking enough and washing hands frequently are important rules of thumb for travelling with children. You can avoid many troubles by following these simple rules at all times.

Children's food allergies and their severity are not necessarily understood everywhere in the world. Sometimes it could be better to skip a dessert even if the waiter is 100% sure it doesn't contain any nuts, for instance.

Protection from mosquitoes and rabies prevention

It's not a good idea to pet stray dogs, however cute they may be. Contracting rabies is unlikely, but still a possibility. Luckily, it can be treated afterwards, provided the patient sees the doctor within 24 hours.

Mosquito protection is essential for trips to tropical areas. Finns somehow underestimate the risks carried by mosquitoes – perhaps because in Finland they are more of an irritating nuisance than a danger.

In the tropics, however, they spread many diseases, of which malaria is only one example. It can be prevented by medication, but there are no preventive drugs for dengue fever, for instance. Antimalarials designed for children are available.

You can find products for your travel medicine kit at Helsinki Airport's pharmacy and pharmacy service point, as well as pharmacy service points at Oulu and Kuopio Airports