How soon can you travel after your child’s COVID-19 booster? What medicines should you pack?
If you missed the December school holiday window to travel because of your child's COVID-19 booster and other vaccines, plan now for the March school holiday. You may need to set aside a few weeks for the necessary jabs to take effect before you leave the country.
Singaporeans are certainly travelling up a storm to make up for the vacation time lost to two years of global travel bans and restrictions, no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just scroll through your social media feed and you’ll see pictures of famous destinations (from Seoul to Tokyo) taken during the recent school and festive holidays by friends, relatives and colleagues. In fact, as far back as last October, the Monetary Authority of Singapore had already predicted that Singaporeans would be spending our pandemic savings more on overseas travel than domestically.
So, armed with still-valid passports, air tickets, hotel bookings and luggage filled with everything but the kitchen sink, you’re ready to tackle jetlag and experience a new country’s offerings. But are you? Maybe not, especially if you have a little one coming onboard with you.
For instance, if your seven-year-old received her COVID-19 booster just a week ago, have the vaccines fully taken effect yet? What should you do if Junior catches COVID-19 while overseas? Can you give your child melatonin for jetlag? Find out from the experts below:
HOW SOON AFTER MY CHILD’S COVID-19 BOOSTER CAN WE TRAVEL?
Your child should be fine to travel within three to seven days of receiving the booster shot, said Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, the head of Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Travellers’ Health & Vaccination Clinic.
“Boosters provide protection quickly because your child’s immune system is already pre-primed with the first two doses,” she said. “The possible vaccine side effects like fever, fatigue or a sore arm usually improve within two to three days after the booster.”
But you might want to delay your travel plans for a few weeks if your child is younger and has just completed his first two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, said Assoc Prof Lim. “He may not achieve optimal protection until at least one to two weeks after the second dose.”
SHOULD I LOOK INTO OTHER VACCINATIONS BEFORE TRAVELLING?
A good one to have is the flu vaccination, especially if you are travelling to a cold country, said Dr Wong Chin Khoon, a paediatrician with SBCC Baby & Child Clinic (Tiong Bahru).
“It is always good to check if there is any infectious outbreak happening in the destination you are headed,” he said. “An example would be the recent measles outbreak in India. In such cases, it would be advisable to speak to your doctor to discuss if there is a need to get your child additional protection.”
Of course, if you’re travelling to countries that already require specific vaccinations (such as the yellow fever vaccine in certain parts of Africa and South America, and the meningococcal vaccine in the Middle East), make sure the whole family is covered before packing your luggage, advised Dr Wong.
“Depending on the type of vaccines your child is receiving, the shots may be given at the same time or around two to four weeks apart. It is, thus, necessary to plan ahead to allow adequate time for the necessary vaccines,” said Dr Wong.
Assoc Prof Lim agreed that some planning is indeed necessary. For instance, hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are advisable when visiting most developing countries “to prevent these food and water-borne infections”, she said. “Ideally, these vaccines should be completed at least one to two weeks before the trip and spaced two weeks from COVID-19 vaccinations.”
“Do also bring your child’s COVID-19 vaccination records with you when you travel because the global COVID-19 situation can change quickly,” said Assoc Prof Lim. “Go to notarise.gov.sg to obtain a free official copy of your own and your child’s COVID-19 vaccination records with an authenticating QR code. It will be emailed to you almost immediately.”
WHAT MEDICINES SHOULD I PACK JUST IN CASE?
“If your child looks well, you can give him some paracetamol to ease his discomfort and seek medical assistance at your destination or once you’re back home,” said Dr Chan Poh Chong, the head and a senior consultant at Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Paediatrics, Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital.
As for what to pack, Dr Wong suggests the following list. If your child has a pre-existing medical condition such as asthma or eczema, speak to the doctor for specific medications, he said.
|Cough, cold or allergy||Antihistamines|
|Wounds||Antiseptic wipe and/or cream, plasters|
WHEN SHOULD I GO TO THE HOSPITAL WHEN OVERSEAS?
If there are any doubts or your child looks ill, it may be better to seek medical attention at reputable medical clinics overseas, said Dr Chan.
Look out for red flags such as shortness of breath, said Assoc Prof Lim. In such instances, your child requires a doctor. “Be aware also that your child’s illness may be something else other than COVID-19, so if you are not sure and your child’s condition worsens, don’t wait until you get back to Singapore to take your child to a doctor.”
As this may be costly, it is important to purchase travel insurance prior to your travel, said Dr Wong.
HOW DO I HELP MY CHILD TO ADJUST TO A DIFFERENT TIME ZONE?
Children are sometimes more adaptable than adults and have fewer issues with jetlag, said Dr Chan. “However, it would be good to ensure adequate rest and fluids all the time.”
Before you head off on holiday, adjust to the new time zone by moving your child’s sleep time back or ahead (depending on which direction you’re travelling) by about 15 to 30 minutes each day, said Dr Wong.
“How soon you need to start this adjustment depends on how many time zones you are crossing. The greater the difference, the longer you may need, and this ranges from two to three weeks to just a few days ahead of your travel.”
If you are not able to adjust the schedule ahead of travel, consider taking the night flight and allow your child to sleep during the flight. “This will ensure that your child and yourself are refreshed upon touching down,” said Dr Wong.
Upon arrival, stick to the local time immediately and resist the temptation to let your child sleep or play as he pleases. “Keep your child in bright sunlight during the day and keep the room dark during local sleep time to help hasten the transition,” said Dr Wong.
While adults can use melatonin (or over-the-counter or prescription medications) at their destination’s bedtime, said Assoc Prof Lim, be careful about giving these medicines to children as they may have unexpected effects. “If you plan to use medications, consult your child’s paediatrician or a travel medicine doctor.”
To help your little one go back to sleep, prepare some books, toys or quiet activities if he wakes up at night and cannot fall asleep, said Assoc Prof Lim.