Children (those under the age of 15) make up a small but important
group of travellers. Their smaller bodies and developing immune
systems make their travel health needs unique.
There are many considerations to take into account when travelling
with children. It is important to consult a health care provider or visit a
travel health clinic to discuss your travel plans preferably six weeks
before you and your child travel.Vaccines for children
In general, there is a higher risk for most vaccine-preventable
diseases when travelling abroad and these diseases tend to be
more severe in children than in adults. If you are planning to
travel, discuss the following with your health care provider:
o Verify whether your child’s routine vaccine schedule needs
to be adjusted to ensure that they are fully protected before
o Consider the influenza (flu) shot for children over the age of
six months. Flu season usually runs from November to April
in the Northern hemisphere, from April to October in the
Southern hemisphere, and year-round in tropical regions.
Consult a travel health provider to determine if a child should
receive vaccines that are not part of the routine vaccine schedule
before travelling. There may be age limitations to some travel
vaccines. If you are planning to travel with an infant to an area
where there is a risk of a vaccine-preventable disease, discuss
your options with the health care provider.
Most vaccines are safe for breastfeeding mothers. If you are a
breastfeeding mother, discuss vaccination options with your
health care provider.
Malaria and children
Avoid taking children to areas with a risk of malaria. Children
are particularly at risk of developing severe malaria.
If you must travel with children to a malaria risk area, visit a
travel health care provider to determine if anti-malarial
medication is recommended.
Whether taking anti-malarial medication or not, protect children
from mosquito bites.
If anti-malarial medication is prescribed, keep them in child-proof
containers and out of reach of children.
It may be difficult to give children anti-malaria medication
because it tastes unpleasant.
o Malaria tablets may be crushed and then mixed with small
amounts of food or drink to mask the taste. Ask your
pharmacist for recommendations.
Seek medical attention immediately if your child develops a fever
while travelling or after your return (even up to a year after
travel). Tell your health care provider that your child has recently
travelled to an area where malaria occurs.
Air travel is safe for healthy infants and children. However, it is
recommended that you wait until newborns are one to two weeks
old before flying. Some airlines will not allow newborns to fly.
Ear pain due to changes in pressure during landing is more
common in children than in adults. To lessen the pain, infants
should bottle or breast feed. Older children can chew gum or be
encouraged to swallow or yawn.
Plan ahead before taking children on a plane.
Jet lag can develop after crossing multiple time zones. Children
with jet lag may have difficulty falling asleep at night and may
wake up earlier than usual. They may also be irritable and tired
during the day.
Long daytime naps may worsen jet lag by making it difficult to fall
asleep at night. Encourage short daytime naps.
Exposure to sunlight and following the local time zone schedule
can help to minimize jet lag.
Children between the ages of 2 to 12 are particularly at risk of
developing motion sickness.
To prevent motion sickness, children should avoid reading or
other activities while in a moving vehicle.
Children may also find that shutting their eyes or looking at the
horizon lessens the feeling of motion sickness.
Traffic laws differ around the world. Even if the use of safety
devices like car seats, seat belts, and bike helmets is not
required in the destination country, caregivers should follow the
practices recommended or legislated in Canada as closely as
possible. Remember to bring your age-appropriate car or booster
seats from home as availability abroad may be limited.
Consider bringing a baby/child carrier rather than a stroller for
areas with unpaved roads.
Environmental and recreational risks
Signs and symptoms of altitude sickness in children are often
vague and may be confused for other illnesses. A child with
altitude sickness may vomit, lose his or her appetite, or be
irritable. Older children may also complain of headaches,
nausea, or difficulty breathing. Discuss all planned activities with
your health care provider.
As it is difficult to tell if a child is developing altitude sickness and
since altitude sickness can develop rapidly in children, it is
recommended that you travel to no higher than 2,500 m (8,200
If travelling to areas higher than 2,500 m (8,200 feet) cannot be
avoided, it is recommended that you ascend a little at a time: no
more than 300 m (984 feet) per day, with a rest day every 1,000
m (3,280 feet).
While travelling, follow the same recreational water safety
recommendations in Canada.
Children should always be supervised closely and wear age-
appropriate life jackets or personal floatation devices. These are
not available in every country so consider bringing one from
Personal protective measures for children
Food- and water-borne diseases
Practise safe food and water precautions. For infants, exclusive
breastfeeding is the best way to prevent food- and water-borne
Wash bottles, pacifiers, teething rings, and toys in water that has
In addition to eating or drinking contaminated food or drinks,
diseases like schistosomiasis and leptospirosis can be
transmitted by swimming in fresh water. Children should not
swim in any fresh, nonchlorinated water such as ponds or lakes,
where these diseases could be transmitted.
Insects and illness
Many travel-related diseases are spread by infected insects such
as mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and ticks. Take precautions to protect
children from insect and tick bites.
Use insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin on exposed
skin, and avoid applying it on children’s hands.
o Insect repellents are usually not recommended for use on
children under the age of six months, but in areas with
dengue or malaria, these diseases pose a greater risk to
children than the potential adverse effects of insect
o Ask your travel health provider for age-specific
recommendations regarding how often to apply insect
Insecticide treated clothing can be worn and a bed net can be
placed over playpens, cribs, or strollers to protect young
Animals and illness
Diseases like rabies can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Children are considered at higher risk of rabies because they
often play with animals, are less likely to report bites or scratches
and are more likely to be bitten in the head and neck area.
Vaccination should be considered for children who are too young
to understand either the need to avoid animals or to report
contact with animals.
Warn children about the dangers of approaching animals;
however, they need to be assured that if they do get bitten or
scratched, they won’t get in trouble and they should immediately
tell an adult.
If your child is bitten, scratched, or licked on broken skin or
mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth), it is important to
clean the area thoroughly by washing and flushing with soap and
water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical assistance
immediately to assess the risk and discuss treatment options.
Children, especially those who have not received all of their
vaccinations, are often at a higher risk of getting infections from
Caregivers should wash their and their children’s hands often.
Children should be taught to cough and sneeze into their arm,
not their hands.
Pack a travel health kit
Parents should pack a travel health kit that contains enough
supplies to prevent illness and handle minor injuries or illness
such as a cut, insect bite or sting. It is important to know what to
do and where to go in the case of a more severe illness while
Travellers’ diarrhea in children
Travellers’ diarrhea is a particular concern in children because
they become dehydrated more quickly than adults.
Avoid using bismuth subsalicylate (e.g., Pepto-Bismol®) to treat
diarrhea in children. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid
using bismuth subsalicylate.
Dehydration is best prevented by an oral rehydration solution
o Infants should continue to receive breast milk or their usual
formula in addition to ORS. Children who are no longer
nursing should continue their usual solid food diet in
addition to ORS.
o Dehydration can also be caused by vomiting. In this case,
children can usually keep an ORS down if it is offered in
small sips by spoon or oral syringe for infants or by straw
for older children. Children must take small sips frequently
to receive an adequate amount of ORS.
Seek medical attention if your child:
o appears to be severely dehydrated;
o has bloody diarrhea;
o has diarrhea accompanied by a high fever, or persistent
o does not improve despite the use of ORS.
Travel-related stress in children
Unfamiliar environments and a change in routine may cause
stress for children.
For older children, familiarize them in advance with the food,
customs, and language of the destination and involve them in
developing the travel itinerary.
For younger children, a favourite toy or special snacks may help
them adjust to a new environment.