If there is ONE thing we recommend ALL Australian families do before heading over for ANY overseas trip with little ones, it is to see the Travel Doctor – TMCV before you leave.
There are three take homes from any visit – described with more deets below:
- Being given the Little Book of Gold (aka the International Health Guide for Travellers)
- Assessing the health risks of travelling
- The vaccination requirements
On Thursday, Issy (4), Etta (2) and I (mid to early thirties) took the train from Geelong to Melbourne to visit Dr Debbie Tse at TMVC-Melbourne on the 3rd floor of 393 Little Bourke Street. Given the last time we asked a local GP for international travel advice in 2016, he googled ‘Vaccinations Vietnam’, we decided that the booking at a specialist travel clinic was worth it. (Not that I don’t trust Dr Google.)
*Please understand that nothing on this blog substitutes for independent medical advice for families. Every family has different needs depending on your medical history, age of children and place and duration of travel. (I.e. Go see a travel doctor)*
1. The Value of the Booking: One Little Book
If nothing else, the costs of the appointment (I was $38 out of pocket after medicare, and the young girls were bulk billed) is worth it solely for the TMVC’s International Health Guide for Travellers that your get at your first visit.
This little book outlines any possible sicknesses / illnesses that are common with travel, and the responses you can take and is an ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ITEM for any family. The diarrhea page is a piece of gold on its own, and was quite dog-eared by the time we left South America on our last extended trip in mid-2009.
2. The Travel Risks and Responses for a Family Travelling to South-East Asia
Dr Tse took us for a 1.5 hour appointment for the three of us, and went through each travel risk for us and our children, explaining the key vaccinations necessary and any other preventative measures we could take based on our loose destinations (Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand) and length of travel. She was great with the girls, and was patient with the complexities of family travel.
Again, the below summary is contextualised for us, and most likely will not be totally relevant for others.
Risk 1 Food / water borne diseases
Food and water borne diseases will be a huge risk for us and our kids, particularly through eating out in Asia, with its varying quality of hygiene and water sources. Some illnesses/diseases passed through food / water includes: diarrhoea, Hep A and E, Typhoid, Chlorea, Worms and Schistosomiasis and Giardia.
- No salads (including fruit salads) for kids unless we know that the water they have used is bottled.
- No ice in drinks for kids either (unless created from bottled water).
- Teach your kids to not open your mouth in the shower and to clean their teeth with filtered water only.
- Don’t swim in rivers or lakes if you can help it (oceans or pools fine!)
- Vaccinate against: Hep A and Typhoid
Travel with a medical kit that contains:
- Hydrolyte (for replenishing fluids in kids, and equally good for any adult hangover)
- Azithromycin or other broad-spectrum antibiotic (for treatment of severe diarrhoea)
- Loperamide (a ‘stopper’ for adults)
- Buscopan (assists adults with stomach cramps)
- Ondansetron wafers (for vomiting if over 4 years); and
- Tinidazole (for treatment of Giardia)
Risk 2 Animal Contact for kids
Although cute (to some!) dogs and monkeys in South East Asia can carry the rabies virus, a potentially fatal disease. Kids are attracted to these animals and vice versa.
- Vaccinate again: Rabies
- Educate your young ones to stay away from, and don’t pat the animals.
- Buy a toy dog / monkey for your kids – they’re safer.
- Don’t walk down a Peruvian street holding your future wife’s hand, and get bitten on the bottom by a little dog who had no right to do so (but that’s another story)
Risk 3 Mosquitoes
The dreaded mozzie is well known to any Aussie, but in Asia they can pose risks such as Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
- Vaccinate against JE (Imojev)
- DEET is the best protectant (Repel Junior has a lower dosage for kids)
- Check out the Malarial Maps for your country of travel (in general where we are travelling are low malarial risks currently and no need for anti-malarial medications)! Whoop.
Risk 4 Air borne diseasese
Despite Tuberculosis (TB) being largely eradicated in Australia (only 1200 cases per year as of 2017 many from migrants or tourists from other countries), many developing countries still have issues with the infection that is passed from person to person (just like the common cold).
- If around sick people, particularly in closed confined spaces like buses, then move your kids away.
- Vaccinate against TB for any child under 5.
3. The Recommended Vaccines for kids/adults travelling for over a month in SE – Asia**
- Hepatitis A vaccine – water/food borne virus. (1 Vaccine to cover 3 years – 2 Vaccines to cover 20-30 years)
- Typhoid – water/food borne virus.
- Rabies – saliva borne / animal contact. (3 Vaccines over 1 month.)
- Imojev Vaccine – prevention of Japanese Encephalitis (mosquitoes-borne) if spending 1 month of more in SE Asia countries visiting rural areas
- (Kids only) BCG Vaccine – prevention of Tuberculosis (TB) – airborne bacterial infection, person to person contact (kids under 5 only – and not adults)
Additional Vaccines for myself
- Hepatitis B vaccine – blood borne virus, reducing the risk through first aid, etc. (3 shots – at Day 1, Day 28 and 6 months)
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine as most likely didn’t have this when I was a kid (2 shots required)
- Meningitis ACWY Vaccine – prevention of meningococcal, person to person contact (Adult teacher exposed to many different people each day)
4. The Plan
So we obviously need a bit of a plan – for Issy and Etta there are likely to be around 7 additional shots (heaps of fun!) across the course of 1 month. For me, if it includes Hep B, 9-10 vaccines (even more fun!!). Lise and Evelyn will look to head in the coming month. It looks like our travel journey and its challenges is most certainly beginning before Jan 15 next year!!
**Please understand that nothing on this blog substitutes for independent medical advice for families. Every family has different needs depending on your medical history, age of children and place and duration of travel. (I.e. Go see a travel doctor)*