Adoption Travel Health Precautions
Traveling to meet your child? Don't get sick!
After a long wait and endless forms, fees, and frustrations, you’re finally about to complete your international adoption by traveling to your child’s birth country! (Or maybe you are traveling to meet your child ahead of the final adoption.) Congratulations! Here are some guidelines on how to prepare for your trip in terms of your health and medical care.
Ideally, see your doctor at least six weeks before your trip to allow time for vaccines to kick in and in order to start any preventive medicine needed. Even if you have less time before you must travel, definitely see a healthcare provider to receive vaccines, anti-malaria drugs, and information about how to keep yourself healthy while traveling.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you see a healthcare provider who specializes in travel medicine. The recommended vaccines and medications vary depending upon what part of the world you will travel to. We’ve assembled general recommendations for 12 countries from which Americans most frequently adopt children, according to the US Department of State. If you will be going to more than one country during a single trip, let your healthcare provider know.
These are the immunizations you should keep up to date on whether or not you’re planning to travel out of the country. A trip abroad is a good time to review your health records and make sure you are current on the following:
- chickenpox (varicella)
- measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT)
Some childhood diseases like measles are still common in many parts of the world, even though we rarely see outbreaks in the United States. If you are not vaccinated you’ll be at risk for contracting those illnesses.
A rabies vaccine is recommended just about anywhere you go, but especially if you’ll be spending lots of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, or if you will be doing anything that might bring you into direct contact with bats. If your other children will accompany you, know that children are considered at higher risk for rabies because they’re more likely to play with animals, and may not report bites.
For just about anywhere you travel, keep these precautions in mind.
Water-borne illness: Drink boiled or bottled water. Choose fruits and vegetables that have been peeled or cooked. Bring a diarrhea medicine, just in case.
Communicable disease: Wash your hands well after playing with or holding children at orphanages, and especially after changing diapers, of course. Since the local water may be questionable, bringing liquid hand sanitizer that doesn’t require water is a great idea.
Rabies: If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the area with lots of soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately.
Common sense: Bring all the usual medications you would need. And remember, all of the above are suggestions and cannot take the place of your doctor’s advice for you as an individual.
Once you’ve made your pre-travel plans, it’s time to start thinking about the return trip, and travel with Baby!
Recommended Vaccines: No vaccines are specifically required by China unless you are coming from a yellow fever-infected country. Canadian and US disease control and prevention authorities recommend that you have current polio and tetanus immunizations. For traveling into the countryside and remote areas, immune globulin is also recommended to combat hepatitis A, as is a vaccine against typhoid.
Malaria: You will not be at risk in cities and popular tourist areas. Rural areas can present a risk in these provinces: Anhui, Fuijan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Tibet (Zangbo River valley only), and Yunnan. Transmission exists in rural communities below 4,921 feet (1,500 m) only during warm weather. South of latitude 25° N, however, transmission occurs year-round. The antimalaria treatment varies depending upon where you’re going in this big country. Take only atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline along the China-Burma border in the western part of Yunnan; atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline or mefloquine in Hainan and the other parts of Yunnan province. Chloroquine in all other areas.
Other Issues: As with many countries you may visit, don’t drink tap water or use ice in drinks, and bring along a supply of anti-diarrhea medicine, as well as any other prescription drugs required by your current health and medical situation. This is sound advice for anywhere you travel.
Recommended Vaccines: Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers to Colombia, but if you will not be traveling beyond the cities of Bogotá, Cali, or Medellín, you are at lower risk and may consider skipping it. Routine vaccines should be up to date, and hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines should be administered as well. If you are traveling to southern Colombia, hepatitis B is advisable.
Malaria: Risk in all rural areas at altitudes below 2,624 feet (800 m). No risk in Bogotá and vicinity. If you are traveling to a risk area, your doctor will recommend either atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine as an antimalarial. Chlorquine is not effective in this region and shouldn’t be used.
Other Issues: Other mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and jungle yellow fever crop up in Colombia, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Bring your DEET, your long sleeves, and closed shoes (not sandals), even for city wear. (Usually at BabyZone we like to advocate “green” approaches, but in some cases the long-term risk of contracting an insect-borne disease trumps the anxiety over using a 10-syllable chemical like N-diethylmetatoluamine, aka DEET. If you are trying to induce lactation, however, use as little DEET as you can.)
Recommended Vaccines: The CDC recommends yellow fever vaccination for everyone over nine months old who goes to Ethiopia. You must have proof of vaccination if you are coming from a country where yellow fever is known to be present. Besides the usual adult boosters of routine immunizations (especially polio), hepatitis A and B are recommended because both strains of the disease are highly prevalent in this country. Again, typhoid vaccination is wise as well.
Malaria: All areas below 6,561 feet (2,000 m) are at risk; Addis Ababa is at 8,200 feet (2,500 m). If you will be visiting a malaria risk area in Ethiopia, take one of the following: atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine (primaquine in special circumstances and only after testing). Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in Ethiopia and should not be taken in this region.
Other Issues: A meningococcal meningitis vaccine is recommended if you plan to visit the western part of the country during December through June.
Recommended Vaccines: Routine vaccines, especially DPT and MMR, should be up to date (there is little risk of polio if you completed a childhood course of immunization), plus immune globulin (IG) for hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine, especially if you will travel to smaller cities or rural areas. Hep A is best given four weeks before departure. As with China, yellow fever is not a disease risk, but the Guatemalan government requires travelers coming from yellow-fever affected areas to show proof of vaccination.
Malaria: Risk in Guatemala is in rural areas only at altitudes below 4,921 feet (1,500 m). No risk in Guatemala City, Antigua, or Lake Atitlán. Chloroquine is the recommended antimalarial drug.
Other Issues: Dengue fever is sometimes found in Guatemala, as are tick-borne illnesses. Keep your skin covered when possible, and use chemical repellents containing 25 percent to 50 percent DEET or 20 percent picaridin. Avoid swimming in unchlorinated fresh water to avoid water-borne parasites.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN