When you’re working overtime to get your family ready to go on vacation over the Family Day weekend or March break, it’s easy to overlook the most important thing your child needs on the trip-immunity to common communicable diseases. Here’s why you need to make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date before you travel.
There’s so much to remember when you’re getting ready for a family vacation. Is the diaper bag packed? Have you got a change of clothes handy for each of the kids in case someone dumps a whole juice on their lap during the flight? If you’re going abroad, do you have everyone’s passport depicting their regulation, non-smiling faces? Do your kids have their can’t-sleep-without-it stuffed animals and their can’t-sit-still-without-it iPads and headphones? Do you have enough snacks to ward off hangry meltdowns-theirs and yours?
With all this to do it’s easy to forget an important aspect of keeping you all safe and well when you’re on your trip and once you’ve returned. “Add immunizations to your planning list,” says Toronto paediatrician Dr. Anne Wormsbecker. “Check your yellow card against Ontario’s immunization schedule. Have they got every vaccine they’re required for their age?”
Wherever you are in Canada, it’s worth making sure that your kids have all the vaccinations recommended by your province prior to departure.
There are other things to consider when traveling from Canada as well. For example, if you are heading to the US, then if you have any convictions, you might want to consider doing some research into getting a pardon.
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That being said, your health should also come first when traveling.
“When we go on an airplane, we’re in confined spaces, touching things all the time. Measles is an airborne disease, so if you’re sitting on that plane it’s going through the whole cabin.”
Furthermore, your travel destination may not have good vaccine coverage. Even places close to home can be having an outbreak, such as the measles outbreak in Toronto and Niagara Falls last year. Disneyland even had a measles outbreak and there were pockets of whooping cough all over Canada.
If you’re traveling to a country that is not as developed, there are multiple infectious disease risk to consider, says Wormsbecker. In these cases you need to plan further in advance. Contact the embassy of the country you’re going to find out if there are special immunization requirements for entry. Talk to your doctor, who will refer you to a travel clinic, she says, who can provide you with important travel information regarding protection against disease.
There’s a lot of myth around side effects of vaccines. Even though those damaging theories have long been debunked, there is still a lot of misinformation about vaccines floating around on the internet.
“I wish every parent could know that vaccine preventable diseases are still around, and that the way to protect children and adults is to get immunizations. Then you either don’t get sick or you get a much milder form of the illness,” says Wormsbecker.
“We’re so fortunate to live in the world we live in where many vaccine preventable diseases are forgotten. But no matter how healthy an individual is, you don’t have the antibodies to fight these vaccine-preventable diseases.”
It seems that as these diseases have receded from our memory because vaccines work so well, we’ve started to fearing the wrong things, such as an additive in a vaccine suspension, as opposed to the disease itself.
But vaccines were developed to keep people healthy and safe, and they’ve been saving lives around the world for more than 200 years. Plus, vaccines schedules are carefully planned so kids get their immunizations when their bodies are ready and when they need them most.
There are a few extreme exceptions where a child can not be vaccinated, such as a child being immuno-compromised. It is then recommended that the child does not travel at all due to the risk to their health. If travel is absolutely necessary, then parents should do what they can to minimize the risk to their children. They might want to fly privately with a company like Jettly and only to countries where there are established herd immunity. Again, this is only for a handful of children and the majority should be vaccinated. This will help prevent the spread of these diseases and protect those who can not be vaccinated.
If you’re worried about the pain your baby or child will endure from the needle, know you’re not alone, but that there are things you can do to help lessen the pain and make the experience a less distressing. If your baby or toddler is nursing, you can breastfeed throughout the shot, offer distractions, hold your child upright as opposed to lying them down on an examining table, and you can also purchase over-the-counter local anaesthetic patches.
While physicians used to advise giving acetaminophen prior to the vaccine, it’s now recommended that parents only administer it if there’s pain at the injection site after. That’s because there is no proof the medicine lessens the pain of the shot. Plus one study suggested that doing so could blunt the immune response to the vaccine, making it less effective.
“We have this fever phobia,” says Wormsbecker, but in reality there is very little risk associated with fever-febrile seizures are extremely rare. The only reason to treat fever is to provide comfort from achy feelings and other symptoms associated with it. Fever generally indicates the body is doing its job.
To make it easier to keep track of your kids’ vaccination schedule, plus stay informed on where outbreaks are happening, there’s an app called Immunize Canada.
For even more information you can check out the Canadian Immunization Guide from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
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