Travelling with Children

HealthLinkBC File Number: 
Travel Series
Last Updated: 
February 2015

Children under 7 years of age are at higher risk of getting sick from travel to tropical and developing countries. Speak with your health care provider or travel clinic staff for advice before travelling.

What should I bring?

  • Insect repellant containing DEET in liquid and cream form, not aerosol.
  • Oral re-hydration salts (ORS) and water-disinfectant tablets.
  • Medication recommended by your health care provider for a fever.
  • Comfortable, closed-toe shoes, and loose fitting, cotton clothes and a sun hat if travelling to a destination with a hot climate.
  • A waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 (sun protection factor) or more.
  • Your child’s car seat. It may be used on the plane if they have their own seat.

Can I travel by air with my baby?

Do not travel by air with a premature infant (baby), or infant younger than 7 days old.

While the plane is taking off and landing, breastfeed or bottlefeed your baby. Feeding your child gets them to swallow and prevents ear pain.

What immunizations will my child need?

Make sure that your child is up to date with their routine immunizations through their regular health care provider. Visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to travel. Travel vaccines that may be recommended depending on where you are going, what you plan to do while you are there, how long you are staying, and the age of your child. Possible vaccinations include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningococcal
  • Travellers’ diarrhea and cholera
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Rabies

If you are travelling to an area with measles, the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, which is given in Canada at 12 months of age, can be given to infants as young as 6 months of age.

Some vaccines should not be given to infants and young children.

Carry a record of your child’s immunizations. Contact your doctor, travel clinic, or public health nurse, about the risk of infection while travelling.

How can I prevent illness?

Breastfeeding is the best way to reduce the risk of foodborne and waterborne illness.

Water served to young children, including water used to dilute (water down) juice or prepare infant formula, should be purified, (boiled and cooled) prior to use.

Consider using canned liquid formula for short trips.

How can I protect my children from malaria?

Malaria is a disease caused by mosquito bites and tiny parasites that get into the bloodstream. The best way to prevent malaria is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

If possible, do not take infants or young children to areas where there is malaria. The effects of malaria are much more serious in children. Malaria medications available for children are limited.

Breast fed babies whose mothers are taking medication to prevent malaria must also be given medication, since little of the mother's medication will be in the breast milk.

Children should sleep in rooms with screened windows, or under bed nets, when available. Mosquito netting should be used over infant carriers.

If you are taking part in outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, wear long sleeves and pants, and use insect repellant on all exposed skin. The most effective insect repellants contain a product called DEET.

In Canada, DEET products are not recommended for use with children younger than 2 years of age. However, when children aged 6 months to 2 years live or travel in an area with malaria, the chances of severe illness is higher than the risks of DEET repellant when applied properly.

For more information on DEET, including specific recommendations for children under 2 years old, see HealthLinkBC File #96 Insect Repellants and DEET.

How can I prevent or treat traveller’s diarrhea?

Children younger than 2 years of age who have a lot of diarrhea should receive medical care. Take your child to a health care provider right away if your child is very restless or irritable, has less and darker urine than normal, is hard to wake up, has bloody diarrhea, a fever higher than 38.5ºC (101.3ºF), or persistent vomiting.

Do not give antibiotics or other medications to children to stop diarrhea unless advised by a doctor.

Give your child re-hydration solution by mouth if the child shows signs of mild dehydration, such as feeling thirsty and restless, yet alert.

Give children plenty of fluids to drink, and continue breast or formula feeding throughout the illness.

Feed children over 6 months of age thin porridge, rice and soups. As they recover, children can eat their usual foods.

For More Information

For more information, see the following HeatlhLinkBC Files:

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Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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