As a new mother, even as a travel expert, traveling with my baby can be a scary proposition. Generally speaking one can base travel risk on vaccinations but occasionally something slips through.
As of April 25, the number of measles cases reported in the United States hit 695 — the highest number in a year since the disease was eliminated in the country in 2000, the CDC said. Worldwide, the number of cases in the first three months of 2019 were triple the amount recorded in the first three months of 2018, according to the World Health Organization.
So what does this mean for babies and young children traveling? In a normal scenario, children first receive the MMR vaccine when they are between 12 and 15 months old. A booster is given when the child is between 4 and 6 years old. The CDC recommends that babies between 6 months and 11 months receive the vaccination before international travel or if they are in a community that is affected by an outbreak.
Infants younger than 6 months are not given the MMR vaccine, because it is believed there are still antibodies present that have been passed on from the vaccinated mother in the third trimester. Because the MMR shot contains a live virus, the antibodies would make the vaccine ineffective.
What can you do as a parent?
1) If a child has not been vaccinated, is older than 12 months and international travel is planned, the initial MMR shot and a booster can be given within 28 days of each other. Traces of immunity are detectable within a few days, according to the CDC, and a person can be fully protected within two to three weeks.
2) If a child cannot be vaccinated due to an immunosuppression, the CDC says, travel should be delayed because the child is more likely to experience severe complications if they get the measles.
3) If the baby is too young to receive the vaccination or wasn’t able to as an infant, you can help minimize the risk of infection by – washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding crowded places, keeping your child away from people who are visibly sick and putting a cover on an infant car seat and putting surgical masks on older children.
4) Mothers who are nursing should consider continuing to do so through the trip, because breast milk contains antibodies.
No matter where you are traveling or the age of your child, be sure to double check with your pediatrician before embarking on any lengthy or long distance trips. It is always better to be safe than sorry!