International travel can be an exciting adventure filled with anticipation and a sense of exploration. Whether venturing out for vacation, leisure, business, or simply visiting family, preparation is an important factor. We typically check the weather to plan what to pack, determine how much to pack depending on how long we will be staying, and choose what to bring in light of where and who we will be visiting. But there is so much more to think about, especially when families are traveling with an infant or a young child. This issue of Pediatrics in Review (PIR) features a review article on how to prepare children and their families for international travel (10.1542/pir.2018-0353).
The SARS-COV2 pandemic has taught us a lot about public health, personal protective equipment (PPE), and simple measures such as handwashing that could mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, one key lesson learned is how small the world is. Through advancements in transportation means, constant mobility has brought the world population closer, connecting people for business, leisure, or immigration purposes. The spread of the SARS-COV2 virus across the globe, and the emergence of new strains that originated in various corners of the world but quickly and efficiently appeared in our country, proved to us that countries and continents are not isolated. Reflecting on the global impact of the pandemic made me realize more than ever before that we are more connected with our fellow human beings than we think.
Another important consideration when it comes to travel is the concept of change. In the same way our environment, country, and society are constantly changing, we can safely assume that the rest of the world is experiencing a similar and constant change. A place you visited 5 years ago or a country you grew up in are never the same as you left them. This is how I felt every time I returned to the place in which I was born and where I grew up… every time it felt different and new to me… every time the people and society felt new and different to me. This got me thinking that not only the people, environment, and society in these places must have evolved, I have changed as well. This diversity and sense of renewal make society richer and more interesting. Remember, for example, that just because you were able to safely drink the water in a place where you grew up does not mean you can safely do that now, years later. In fact, you and your microbiome have changed.
This PIR article highlights important international travel preparation tips with all this in mind. Adhering to these recommendations is important no matter how familiar you are with the place you are visiting. The authors provide practical tips for the parent traveling with an infant and/or young child, including issues to be aware of in preparation for and during the travel period. The article addresses child safety measures, motion and altitude sickness, and infectious diseases—including traveler’s diarrhea, vaccine-preventable illnesses, and insect-borne infections, among others. It highlights the importance of maintaining heightened vigilance for environmental safety hazards for a child and stresses the need for child-proofing any new environment that the child might be exposed to. The tragic outcomes we have witnessed as a result of the lack of this preparation for children fleeing war-torn countries through migration across the Mediterranean or crossing our borders (with or without their parents) highlight the importance of pre-travel preparation measures recommended by the authors.
Traveling is and will always be part of our lives. As the global pandemic becomes more under control, with global immunization widely available, traveling will surely resume soon. Preparing children for international travel has its positive impacts on a child’s physical and mental well-being, promotes child safety, and contributes to parents’ peace of mind. The pediatrician plays a key role in this preparation process by serving as a trusted resource for the family traveling with an infant or a young child. The rover Perseverance reached new frontiers in Mission to Mars recently proving to us that humans are explorers and travelers, and that indeed it is a small world after all!