Taking your kids on an international holiday is a great way to expose them to different cultures, but it can also expose them to diseases like rabies. While rabies isn't a major worry at home in the United States, that's not the case in some other countries. If you plan to travel to a high-risk area with your kids, their pediatrician may recommend a pre-exposure rabies vaccine.
What countries are high risk for rabies?
If your summer holidays will take you to highly-developed countries like Canada, Australia, or England, the risk of rabies is low, just like it is at home in the United States. However, many parts of the world still have a high risk of rabies. If your travels will take you to countries in Central or South America, Africa, or Asia, you need to be concerned.
Why is rabies a risk for children?
Rabies is spread by bites or scratches from infected animals. Licks on the eyes, nose, or mouth can also spread the disease. Kids often play with animals, so they're considered to have a higher risk of getting rabies. Kids are also less likely to report that they've had an encounter with an animal, so you may not know that your child was bitten, scratched, or licked.
Before your holiday, make sure to talk to your kids about the dangers posed by animals. In developing countries, dogs may roam the streets, and while these dogs can be cute, they can also have rabies and should be avoided.
How is the rabies vaccine given?
If your child is too young to understand that animals can be dangerous or too young to be able to tell you that they've encountered an animal, their pediatrician may recommend getting a rabies vaccine as a preventative measure. The vaccine is given in the form of three separate injections. These injections need to be spread out, so start the process at least a month before your holiday begins. Two more doses will be needed if your child bitten, scratched, or licked by an animal while on holiday.
Kids can be scared of needles, so it may be hard to get them to cooperate with the vaccination process. Numbing creams can be used to reduce the pain associated with the injections, and rewards like stickers or lollipops can be given afterwards.
If you're traveling to an area that poses a high risk of rabies, ask your child's pediatrician or a professional at an organization such as Advance Medical of Naples if the rabies vaccine is a good idea for your child.