A Canadian tropical medicine specialist is urging parents to get pre-travel health advice and immunization shots for their children prior to leaving on international trips abroad. (Get them insured too. Your individual insurance won’t do it.)
According to a Canadian Press report, Dr. Maryanne Crockett of the University of Manitoba, told a meeting of the Canadian Pediatric Society that almost one third of pediatricians responding to a national survey had treated children with travel-related illnesses after returning home from trips in the previous 12 months.
She is quoted by the CP as saying that over 40 percent of the travel-related illnesses seen were potentially fatal, 70 percent were preventable—with 29 percent being preventable by vaccines that are available. She added that approximately 300,000 children from Canada travel internationally each year to destinations other than the United States. The regions most often associated with travel-related illness were Africa, India, other Asian countries, as well as the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America.
According to the survey of pediatricians, 57 percent of children who had been seen by doctors had suffered diarrheal illness bad enough to warrant admission to hospital. The highest risk group included VFRs (visiting friends and relatives)—Canadian-born or immigrant children going back to their family’s country of origin.
Unfortunately, most provincial health plans, among them OHIP, cover only the standard immunizations for measles, mumps, etc., not for diseases such as yellow fever or malaria. They also do not cover visits for advice to travel or tropical medicine clinics, although they would cover such advice if provided within the context of a routine office visit with your family doctor.
Travel insurance will cover children who might need emergency medical or hospital care while in a foreign country, but parents need to make sure that the children are specifically covered. Individual trip policies only cover that particular individual, not his or her dependents. Ask for family plans that will cover your children, but you need to specify their names, ages, etc. specifically on the policy. These are usually very good deals. But don’t overlook this: kids get into a lot of mischief and they are far more prone to accidents and other unexpected ailments while traveling than their parents.
Get Documented Permission
Also, if you are traveling with your grandchildren, children of friends or relatives, or if you are separated from your former spouse and travelling out of the country with your child, you will need a letter permitting you to do so from the custodial parent/s. Border agents in virtually all countries are now demanding such documentation to prevent a growing epidemic of abductions and other cross border child trafficking. For more on this requirement see my home page post on traveling internationally with children.
You can also print out your own Child Documentation Permission form. It’s free.