India with Kids: The health risks??

July 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Post #3

I think that what really concerns people planning  a trip to an “exotic” location are health matters. I know that is what bothered me – especially with a three year old. The fact is, if anyone gets malaria it’s not good, but if a three year old gets sick with malaria it could be really bad. On the other hand, there is no prophylaxis for mosquito borne dengue fever. And what about Chikungunya? – another mosquito borne disease I had never heard of until I googled “India health”.

Worse, the advice on the net is conflicting – our travel agent in India advised against taking anything against malaria – the reason being that the regions we were planning to visit were not high risk areas  and they voiced a common feeling that the drugs are downright bad for you. On the other hand our local travel health clinic advised strongly that we take the drugs so… we ended up well equipped with malarone all round – very expensive, but child friendly and we were told with few if any side effects. At the same time we made sure we were up to date with typhoid, hepatitis A, MMR and  tetanus  shots. Not as big a deal as it sounds, since one or two exceptions aside, the kids were covered by vaccinations to date. The good thing is that a lot of these last quite a while, so we were well set for any other trips planned in the next few years too.

As for the various mosquito borne diseases that we could not be inoculated against, the emphasis had to be on trying our best to avoid being bitten. Not so easy.  We ended up ordering a supply of Bushman insect repellent – a DEET based Australian brand that appeared to be hugely effective at deterring mosquitoes. There is a lot of info out there advising against deet, but the fact is, it does work and we felt the risk was worth it.  We also took a supply of medications from ranging from antibiotics to worm medicine and everything in between. We were aware that in India it should be relatively easy to find a pharmacy almost anywhere but we were planning to go slightly off the beaten path and we felt more comfortable taking a range of medicines with us. Also, remembering our first trip, we knew that being ill in a national park far from anywhere is not a whole lot of fun.

To many this all might seem like a lot of hassle just for a holiday, but perhaps that is the price to pay to travel out of one’s immediate comfort zone.

In addition to all the above, almost every traveler to India needs a visa, but apart from a few hours of waiting in a busy consulate, it was a piece of cake.

We weren’t sure about a stroller but in the end decided to take it. Since we would be travelling with our own minivan and driver we would have the space and perhaps we wouldn’t use it, but the idea of a tired three year old on my back all the time didn’t really appeal.  We also took our trusty baby backpack, just in case of tired legs.

Shots, malaria tablets, visas in hand – now we just had to wait for the date of departure. We bought a great A-Z book of India full of photographs for the little kids and rented some India related family movies. Finally, since we live in Vancouver which is a city where you can find food from all over the world, we ate at some South Indian restaurants, and introduced the kids to dosas and thalis.

PS I’m now planning great family trips to India myself. If you’d like more info on how I can plan a trip for you, visit here for more info!