Many expat families will be heading off for summer holidays – either back home to visit family and friends or just to catch some rest and relaxation. While a holiday with the kids is great fun, it could also turn into a nightmare if Junior falls sick. Find out how to prevent potential problems.
Marcus Gan learnt the hard way how important it is to cover all bases while travelling with kids. His son, Mouyi, came down with a serious lung infection during an Australia vacation two years ago.
“It started with a cough and a blocked nose. By the third day, he couldn’t breathe and was so lethargic. We never expected the weather to be so bitingly cold and weren’t prepared to deal with it at all,” says the 31-year-old chef.
Mouyi, then aged three, was hospitalised for four days at a private hospital there, where he racked up a $5,000 medical bill.
“It was my worst and most expensive holiday but, luckily, my son is fine and the hospital bills were covered by travel insurance,” says Marcus.
To help you avoid the same situation, Young Parents asked the experts for tips on how to prep your little ones for travel, and what to do if they fall ill while overseas.
Get your shots right
Visit the doctor at least six weeks before your trip to ensure that your kid gets the right vaccinations, depending on where you are heading to, advises Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, a specialist in paediatrics and consultant at Raffles Children’s Centre.
It takes time for immunity to kick in, and some jabs – like hepatitis A – require a few shots for protection, adds infectious disease physician Leong Hoe Nam of Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.
Besides keeping up to date with the routine vaccinations on the National Childhood Immunisation Programme schedule, consider optional shots, too, suggests Dr Chan Poh Chong, head and senior consultant at the division of general ambulatory paediatrics and adolescent medicine of National University Hospital (NUH).
In general, if you are travelling to areas where sanitation and hygiene standards are not up to scratch, opt for hepatitis A and typhoid shots. Kids going on a winter holiday – for instance, to Australia during June or the US for a year-end vacation – should have the flu jab, Dr Chan advises.
Pencil in a yellow-fever shot list if you’re heading to exotic destinations like Africa and South America, as well as the meningococcal vaccine for Sub-Saharan Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Keep him healthy
Letting Junior stay up late and dragging him through crowded malls to get some last-minute travel essentials aren’t a good idea.
Instead, make sure he has enough rest, exercise and a well-balanced diet. All of these will help improve his immunity, says Dr Chan of NUH.
Exercise common sense, too. For instance, avoid crowded places and people who are unwell. Good hygiene practices – like washing hands before a meal, and not rubbing the eyes and nose, which are the point of entries for germs – can also minimise the risk of your child falling ill before a trip, Dr Chan adds.
To avoid jet lag (read: highly strung, cranky kid), adjust his sleep schedule two to three days before the trip, and keep him active outdoors or in a brightly lit room during daylight hours, Dr Sinnathamby suggests.
Pack his usual meds
If your child has an ongoing medical condition – say asthma or allergies – ensure that it’s stable before you plan a holiday overseas, advises Dr Chan. Always check with your kid’s doctor before your flight, and ask her to write a refill prescription in case of emergencies.
In your hand luggage, pack his regular prescription, alongside other medications for common ailments like fever, diarrhoea, mild runny nose, and cough and vomiting.
“For example, if your child has asthma, you should ensure that he continues his control medication during the trip. You should also bring along rescue medication, like salbutamol, in case of emergencies, especially when weather changes occur or if the hotel room has carpets that might worsen his condition,” says Dr Chan.
Insurance for assurance
Dr Sinnathamby advises getting travel insurance in case of unforeseen medical expenses during the trip. This typically covers medical-related costs from common incidents like food poisoning to more serious illness or accidents that may happen during your overseas trip, says Fong Yong Hui, 34, a financial consultant at One Degree Alliance.
Most plans also cover emergency evacuation to a better-equipped hospital and emergency repatriation back to Singapore, in the event of serious medical cases, or when you are in countries with limited medical facilities, says Yong Hui.
“Some travel insurance even provides childcare benefits in the event of a parent’s hospitalisation. These may include the costs of travel and accommodation for a relative or friend to accompany the children home,” she adds. Check with your insurance company.
If anything should happen, have these ready, she advises:
- Retain proof of travel documents, like boarding passes and air tickets.
- Keep a copy of all original receipts or medical bills.
- Get a copy of any medical reports or certificates.
- Submit the claim within 30 days of your return.
For more travel tips with the kids, click here!
By Eveline Gan, Young Parents, June 2015