July 25, 2024

This week Bobbi Conner talks with Dr. Andrea Summer about travel-related injury & illness in children and prevention strategies. Dr. Summer is a Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Travel Clinic at MUSC.


Conner: I’m Bobbi Conner for South Carolina Public Radio with Health Focus here at the radio studio for the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. When children travel internationally, especially to tropical destinations or remote areas in low and middle income countries, they may be at greater risk of injury or illness. Doctor Andrea Summer is here to provide details about prevention. Doctor Summer is a Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Pediatric Travel Clinic at MUSC. Doctor Summer, what are some of the health considerations or things to think about when traveling internationally with children?

Dr. Summer: The challenge in family travel to foreign lands lies in the prevention of injury, infectious diseases and other health problems.

Conner: And what about traveling to tropical or remote areas with young children infants, toddlers, preschoolers? Are those children at increased risk?

Dr. Summer: When kids are traveling internationally to both tropical and non-tropical locations, injuries, especially those sustained from motor vehicle crashes, are the most common cause of death in young travelers. The second most common cause of death in the young traveler would be drowning, so careful supervision and approved safety devices for water related activities is essential. Traveling to low and middle income countries. Infectious disease risk are also a concern, with travelers diarrhea being the most common.

Conner: And what can parents do to minimize some of these risks?

Dr. Summer: Good handwashing is essential, and then precautions around food and beverage selections is also important. In travel medicine, we have a saying boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it. So, you want, you know, your foods to be steaming hot when they’re served. We’d recommend no raw vegetables and only to consume fruits that have a good thick peeling like bananas, mangoes, oranges or melons. And then water must be boiled or chemically treated, or bottled water, sodas, juices are generally safe if the seal is intact. And, these are all ways to try to prevent traveler’s diarrhea.

Conner: And what do parents need to know in advance about immunizations for their children before traveling?

Dr. Summer: Children should be up to date on all of their routine vaccinations. For some destinations, there are travel specific vaccinations that are needed, such as typhoid fever, yellow fever vaccination, and Japanese encephalitis vaccine as well.

Conner: Doctor Summer, what do we need to know about protecting children, including very young children, against insect borne disease?

Dr. Summer: When we travel, insect precautions are imperative in areas with malaria. But even in areas such as the Caribbean where mosquito borne illness such as dengue fever and chikungunya and Zika are a problem, an insect repellent with Deet at a concentration of 25 to 30% is effective and safe for children when properly applied to exposed skin. We do caution parents with a toddler, for example, to not put the insect repellent on the hands or face because they can wipe the repellent into their mouth or eyes. The other thing that they can do for young children is make sure they’re in, you know, lightweight clothing that’s long sleeves, long pants to try to protect them from insects that way.

Conner: Doctor Summer, thanks for this information about travel related illness in children.

Dr. Summer: You’re welcome.

Conner: From the radio studio for the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, I’m Bobbi Conner for South Carolina Public Radio.

Health Focus transcripts are intended to accurately represent the original audio version of the program; however, some discrepancies or inaccuracies may exist. The audio format serves as the official record of Health Focus programming.


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