I had set my heart on packing our bags as a family of four and flying off into the sunset to spend two weeks exploring Borneo in Malaysia. I’d sourced the flights, even chosen the hotels to best utilise our chances of seeing orangutans in the wild.
Thankfully, before I booked anything, it occurred to me that Peanut, our new arrival, would only be around three months old and, after doing some research, I realised that an adventure to Asia would require some serious vaccinations for all of us. And more importantly, the close proximity to the rainforests would also mean we would be at risk of malaria.
Visiting the travel clinic
Optimistic as ever, I still booked an appointment to see the nurse at the Travel Clinic. After explaining about all the routine vaccinations the baby will have up to 13 months old, such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio, which he wouldn’t be completely covered for at just three months, a baby is unable to have vaccinations such as Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B before they reach the age of one.
Meanwhile, insect repellent containing DEET is not to be used on babies under two months and then only with a 10% concentration. She finished off by highly recommending that I change my plans. But then after seeing my disappointment, told me that it was totally my choice as a parent, but I needed to know the risks.
So when I got home, I had two minutes of being indignant exclaiming that lots of families took their babies to tropical climates without any concerns. But, of course, when I sat down and really looked into it, and had to make an informed decision, I knew I would never forgive myself if something happened to the baby – and that Borneo really wasn’t going anywhere… I just realised that I would be far happier taking him closer to home, or to a country with low-risk factors – and certainly with no malaria borne diseases.
All You Need To Know About Travel Vaccinations For Babies
After trying to find out for myself and realising there isn’t a huge amount of information out there, I’ve put together some handy tips and resources if you would like to know more about travel vaccinations for babies and going abroad with young children.
What immunisations has your baby had?
The nurse told me that the baby needed some immunisation before heading off anywhere abroad – and this includes Europe. Immunisation is a way of protecting against serious diseases. Once we have been immunised, our bodies are better able to fight those diseases if we come into contact with them. A baby’s first set will be at two months old, they will then be given further doses of these immunisations when they are three months old and four months old. Other immunisations are given at around 12 months of age. At each stage of immunisation, the immune system will increase but it won’t be until they’ve had the full set at around one year, will they be fully protected.
For the full timeline of baby vaccinations head to NHS Choices which lists all immunisations your child will need.
Where are you going?
If you’re travelling to Europe, the chances are you will be fine. It’s tropical and far-flung destinations that pose more of a risk – those countries which require extra vaccinations such as typhoid, rabies, yellow fever and hepatitis A and B. Fit for Travel is an informative website which lists all the required vaccinations needed for all the countries across the globe. This a great starting point to begin weighing up your options.
Malaria and DEET
Children under 12 can take some forms of anti-malarial tablets and it’s best to speak to your healthcare professional about the best course of action. For example, Doxycycline is not advised as it can discolour children’s teeth. However, there is nothing for babies to take – and prevention from mosquito bites would be your only option. Insect repellents would be the best form of defence but DEET cannot be used for babies under two months old, and you should only use products which only contain around 10% DEET on babies. And never more than 30% on children of any age – such is the potency of the chemical. Plus only apply once a day.
As the nurse pointed out to me – would this really be enough to deter biting insects? Mosquito nets and covering up is also advised – but no guarantee your child wouldn’t be bitten.
Know your own mind
Healthcare professionals can only inform you of the facts and the risks involved with taking a baby abroad. It is their job to make sure you’re aware of all the information, but if you’re happy to go ahead with your plans, then don’t let them deter you.
I may not be going to Borneo anymore, but I am going to Lisbon in Portugal in May – and the baby may have only just had his first set of immunisation. I am fine with this decision because I have weighed up my options and believe he will be safe as long as we are careful and exercise caution. Similarly, we are going to South Africa before he is one year old, and we’ve chosen to stay around Cape Town and the Garden Route, where vaccinations are not needed and is a malaria free zone.
Still stuck? Go to a travel clinic…
I booked an appointment to see the travel nurse and it was an extremely informative 15 minutes. If you’re still unsure about what to do, then speak to a professional who will be able to give you more information and help advise you.
One final note, check with your insurers…
Contact your travel insurers and ask them what their policy is on babies travelling abroad. Will they want to know that your baby is fully vaccinated before travel? Will your policy be void if not? Best find out before you hop on the plane!
Have you travelled with a young baby abroad? I’d love to hear your thoughts…