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Pediatric infectious disease specialist Jason Harris, MD, answers questions about protecting your family from infections while traveling.

Traveling with Kids: How to prevent infections on vacation

Q&A with Jason Harris, MD


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Q: What are some common travel infections that kids might get when traveling?

It depends on whether the travel is international or domestic. For international travel, some common infections are malaria and traveler’s diarrhea, but there are other infections that depend on the exact destination. With local travel and people spending time outdoors, we think about things like tick-borne illness that are common on the Cape.

Q: What are some tips for preventing illness when traveling with kids?

It’s useful to know your own child. Based on your child’s medical history, you should be prepared for any recurrent problems your child might have.

  • It depends on the type of travel, but it’s always important for kids to be up to date with routine vaccines prior to traveling. For those traveling overseas, there are often special vaccines we give specifically for risk of infection overseas.
  • For outdoor vacations, make sure to use insect repellant to prevent insect bite infections. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repellants with less than 30 percent DEET should be used in children over two years old. For infants less than two months old, you should not use repellant containing DEET.
  • It’s good to bring a very simple medical kit along with common items like first aid supplies and fever reducing medications.

Q: Should you call your pediatrician before traveling?

Before any international trip, it’s a good idea to touch base with your general pediatrician. Often times, especially for complicated itineraries, we recommend consultations with the MGHfC Pediatric and Family Traveler’s Advice and Immunization Center. These consultations should take place 4 to 6 weeks before travel for immunizations to reach full effectiveness.

Q: What should we expect with a visit to the MGHfC Pediatric and Family Traveler’s Advice and Immunization Center?

We typically check for routine vaccinations and go over whether any additional vaccines would be needed for the specific location of travel. We also will advise parents on whether any preventative medications would be indicated for the trip and go over general advice. You can reach the center for referrals or appointments at 617-724-6454.

Q: Are there any resources online that parents can check out to be aware of travel precautions?

The CDC has a wonderful site that includes information on traveling abroad and specific tips for traveling with children.



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