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Traveling with children can bring great rewards as well as great challenges for parents. With worldwide travel becoming more and more common, many families are taking children with them to all parts of the globe. Many of the same precautions that apply to adults also apply to children. However, because of children's limited immunity to diseases, food and water precautions, as well as limiting their exposure to disease, are even more important.
It is important to contact your child's physician regarding immunizations that are required for your child as early as possible before travel. The timetable for certain immunizations may need to be accelerated and there may be other special immunizations that are necessary, depending on the region of the world to which you are traveling.
For more information, refer to the Immunizations section of this module.
Be especially careful about exposing children to different foods and water. Children should not be fed any food that is uncooked, and should avoid fruits and vegetables in developing countries, as children are particularly susceptible to traveler's diarrhea and other gastrointestinal infections. Also take extra precautions when mixing infant formula with water. Purified water should be used for drinking, preparing ice cubes, brushing teeth, and mixing infant formula and foods. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used as a disinfecting agent, and special precautions should apply to cleaning pacifiers, teething rings, and toys that fall to the floor or are handled by others.
Keeping children away from insects and animals is also important in preventing the transmission of disease. While insect repellents are advised in many areas, consult your physician regarding the use of these, as many of the repellents recommended for adults are too strong for young children.
Airplane travel can be exciting, yet frightening and painful for young children. Children are especially vulnerable to the sensation of "popping" ears during take off or landing, and often experience pain with this. Due to an air pocket in the middle ear that is sensitive to air pressure changes, the changing altitude as the plane takes off or lands can cause discomfort in the ears. Small children are especially affected by blocked ear canals because their eustachian tubes - the tube which connects the middle ear with the nasopharynx - are narrower than those of adults.
Swallowing or yawning usually can help "pop" the ears (activating the muscle that opens the eustachian tube) and ease the discomfort. Use of a bottle or pacifier in very young children can also help "pop" the ears. Do not allow a baby to sleep as the plane descends.
Older children may be helped by chewing gum or drinking a cup of juice.
Children seem to be more prone to motion sickness than adults. Further, while an antihistamine can be effective in preventing or relieving motion sickness, its use is restricted by age. If your child suffers from motion sickness, discuss this with his/her physician before you travel and ask what medications may be appropriate for your child. Other ways to relieve motion sickness include the following: