Tips to help protect your baby from flu during travel
When you consider the evolution of a baby's immune system from birth through his first birthday, it's obvious that time-the more of it he's spent outside the womb-is on his side.
Infants are particularly vulnerable to flu and serious complications arising from flu because of their immature immune systems and delicate respiratory systems.
If you find yourself planning travel with your baby during flu season, or if you are faced with travel during the current outbreak of H1N1, here are some ways you can help protect your baby from flu virus as you travel:
- Instead of regular baby wipes, which do not contain alcohol, use antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-containing hand sanitizer to keep hands clean on the go. This is especially important after passing through airports and stations where escalator handrails, elevator buttons, and door handles are constantly touched by the same hands that have covered sneezes and coughs.
- When entering crowded public places with your baby, such as airports, train stations, markets, or busy elevators, attach a lightweight receiving blanket to the edge of your infant car seat or stroller sun shade to drop down as an extra shield against coughs and sneezes that transmit virus on droplets through the air to land on lower surfaces (including your child in her stroller).
- Continue breastfeeding through upcoming travel to give your baby added protection against illness through the antibodies mom's body makes and delivers through breast milk in response to the germs she encounters.
- Consider driving rather than flying or traveling by train to limit all family members' exposure to flu virus.
- Avoid unnecessary travel with infants during flu season and outbreaks such as the current outbreak of H1N1. Remember that flu season is the opposite in the southern hemisphere, and can last year-round in the tropics.
- Discuss flu vaccine with your child's pediatrician. Although a current flu shot doesn't protect against H1N1, flu vaccine can help protect babies 6 months and older against seasonal flu.
- Pregnant mothers may also consider receiving a flu shot not only to protect them against seasonal flu during and after pregnancy, but possibly to help protect their infant from flu during the first 6 months-not a bad idea if you plan to travel with your infant. Click here for more about the New England Journal of Medicine study that shows a link between maternal flu vaccine and protection of infants.
- Lay down the law about limiting contact with anyone showing possible symptoms of flu (cough, runny nose, muscle aches, diarrhea or vomiting, and certainly fever) when visiting friends and relatives, regardless of how much they want to hold or kiss the baby during your stay.
- Choose window seats on airplanes that will allow you to position yourself between your baby and fellow passengers, and reconsider seats at the bulkhead row where additional passengers may linger awaiting the lavatory or can more easily stop to dote over your baby.
- Discuss your upcoming travel plans with your baby's doctor, and how to recognize flu symptoms in your baby (it can be a bit tougher to identify early flu symptoms in babies who regularly spit up and have smooshy stools than with older children who can also tell you how they feel). Be sure to take along any phone numbers or email addresses for your pediatrician's office and/or other advice nurse contacts to use in case of illness as you travel.
Shelly Rivoli has traveled with a baby in tow across the U.S., over both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and around the Mediterranean Sea. Together, her family has made its way by airplane, elephant, subway, train, cruise ship, taxi, and long tail boat.
After changing diapers in Thailand, Tunisia, Manhattan, Yosemite, Paris, Chichen Itza, Hawaii, and Pompeii, she has grown quite familiar with the technical details of traveling--and sightseeing--with babies, toddlers, and young children.
Shelly's travel guidebook, Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children, received a 2008 NAPPA Gold Award in Parenting Resources from the National Parenting Publications Awards and was a finalist for two ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.
Her family travel tips and advice have appeared in national parenting magazines, including Pregnancy, Parents, Parenting, and Nick Jr. Magazine, and on popular parenting websites and blogs including Babble.com, Urban Baby Daily and aParentlySpeaking.
Shelly travels as often and as far as she can with her husband and two young daughters. The rest of the time, she hangs her hats (as mother and writer) in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She can be found online at www.travelswithbaby.com
For more information about H1N1 flu, see:
CDC Q&A on Swine Flu -- www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/
Latest updates on Swine Flu from the CDC -- www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu
''The CDCs Travelers Health information center -- wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
'American Academy of Pediatrics swine flu advice www.aap.org
Weekly influenza activity across the U.S. -- www.influenza-info.org