It’s a Small World After All!

International travel can be an exciting adventure filled with anticipation and a sense
of exploration. Whether venturing out for vacation, leisure, business, or simply visiting
family, preparation is an important factor. We typically check the weather to plan
what to pack, determine how much to pack depending on how long we will be staying,
and choose what to bring in light of where and who we will be visiting. But there
is so much more to think about, especially when families are traveling with an infant
or a young child. This issue of Pediatrics in Review (PIR) features a review article on how to prepare children and their families for international
travel (10.1542/pir.2018-0353).

The SARS-COV2 pandemic has taught us a lot about public health, personal protective
equipment (PPE), and simple measures such as handwashing that could mitigate the spread
of the COVID-19 virus. However, one key lesson learned is how small the world is.
Through advancements in transportation means, constant mobility has brought the world
population closer, connecting people for business, leisure, or immigration purposes.
The spread of the SARS-COV2 virus across the globe, and the emergence of new strains
that originated in various corners of the world but quickly and efficiently appeared
in our country, proved to us that countries and continents are not isolated. Reflecting
on the global impact of the pandemic made me realize more than ever before that we
are more connected with our fellow human beings than we think.

Another important consideration when it comes to travel is the concept of change. In the same way our environment, country, and society are constantly changing, we
can safely assume that the rest of the world is experiencing a similar and constant
change. A place you visited 5 years ago or a country you grew up in are never the
same as you left them. This is how I felt every time I returned to the place in which
I was born and where I grew up… every time it felt different and new to me… every
time the people and society felt new and different to me. This got me thinking that
not only the people, environment, and society in these places must have evolved, I
have changed as well. This diversity and sense of renewal make society richer and
more interesting. Remember, for example, that just because you were able to safely
drink the water in a place where you grew up does not mean you can safely do that
now, years later. In fact, you and your microbiome have changed.

This PIR article highlights important international travel preparation tips with all this
in mind. Adhering to these recommendations is important no matter how familiar you
are with the place you are visiting. The authors provide practical tips for the parent
traveling with an infant and/or young child, including issues to be aware of in preparation
for and during the travel period. The article addresses child safety measures, motion
and altitude sickness, and infectious diseases—including traveler’s diarrhea, vaccine-preventable
illnesses, and insect-borne infections, among others. It highlights the importance
of maintaining heightened vigilance for environmental safety hazards for a child and
stresses the need for child-proofing any new environment that the child might be exposed
to. The tragic outcomes we have witnessed as a result of the lack of this preparation
for children fleeing war-torn countries through migration across the Mediterranean
or crossing our borders (with or without their parents) highlight the importance of
pre-travel preparation measures recommended by the authors.

Traveling is and will always be part of our lives. As the global pandemic becomes
more under control, with global immunization widely available, traveling will surely
resume soon. Preparing children for international travel has its positive impacts
on a child’s physical and mental well-being, promotes child safety, and contributes
to parents’ peace of mind. The pediatrician plays a key role in this preparation process
by serving as a trusted resource for the family traveling with an infant or a young
child. The rover Perseverance reached new frontiers in Mission to Mars recently proving
to us that humans are explorers and travelers, and that indeed it is a small world
after all!

Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics