making the decision to travel to africa with young kids
Has anyone else wrestled with whether or not to travel to africa with young kids? What helped you make your decision to go or not to go? My concerns are mostly health related and how to handle recommended vaccines/meds, etc. Thanks.
We were careful about what we drank. Silly, because I'm OK with picking up anything off of the street to eat, but I'll only drink bottled water.
My husband and I spent most of 2008 in Ghana while he did his dissertation fieldwork. I had some pretty big reservations about it beforehand, and I did a ton of reading on message boards (MDC, Lonely Planet, and wherever else I could find info) before we left, and reading others' firsthand accounts helped immensely. I also tried to connect with people who were there already whose brains I could pick. Two great books I found were Bugs, Bites and Bowels and Your Child: A Travel Health Guide, both by Jane Wilson-Howarth.
My son was 18 months when we left (a little over 2 yrs old when we came home). We did all the shots, took Malarone to prevent malaria and were careful with what we ate and drank. He was also still nursing throughout the time we were there, which helped. And we slept under nets at night and made sure slather on the bug dope if we were outdoors after dusk. Those were the basics for us. DM me if you have any specific questions.
Best of luck with your decision!
When I was in Tanzania, I didn't think twice about the bringing the DEET but it made me vomit every time I applied it. It was awful. I quit using it (continued the anti-malarial) but fortunately my clothing was also very practical. I didn't get bitten by any mosquitoes (though it was the "winter" season of July, so a bit fewer bugs anyway).
About the vaccines, in Tanzania only yellow fever was required, but I got a whole bunch of vaccines (hadn't questioned them back then). I did bring water bottles from the USA, but I'm not sure if you can do that anymore. Obviously I couldn't bring enough water for the 4 week trip but I had a couple of bottles that helped. For example, I'd brush my teeth with it instead of using the tap water in the rural town I was in. Of course I rationed it carefully.
Personally, we have decided that we will not travel to malarial areas with under-4s just for "fun". If a job or a long term opportunity came up we would consider moving back. The risk (specifically of malaria, since last time we were in malarial area the baby next door died of malaria) does not seem worth it to us for a 3 week beach holiday that we could hold off on for now, but could be worth it for a more long-term situation.
Re: water - I would just take purifying tablets/get them in country (easily available in the countries I have experience in). However if there long-term I would probably switch to drinking local water, depending on the usual variables of course.
We just finished talking all this through actually, since we are taking a 3 month trip with our 2 year old. Decided to skip Africa this time. Very sad but there will be other times...
We are in the process of adopting two girls from Uganda. We've just finished one of the adoptions. We ended up bringing our three biological sons who are 2, 4 and 6 to Uganda with us for almost 6 weeks this March and April. Overall, it was a great experience.
We are slow/selective vaxers normally, but for this trip we went ahead and did was the infectious medicine doctors suggested. We had them take malarone. At first, as they didn't know how to swallow pills, we would hide the pills in a jelly bean and they would chew up. After we ran out of jelly beans and couldn't find more in Uganda, the boys learned how to swallow pills. We brought along antibiotics for tummy troubles or other infections. We brought bug spray - the California Baby spray with is natural and mild enough to use frequently, a lemon-eucalyptus spray that smelled bad was not unsafe, and deet to put on feet and ankles where mosquitos seemed to be the worst.
We brought sunscreen, wide brimmed hats and clothing with built in SPF for most days. We went swimming one cloudy day and the boys ended up with bad burns. Wear sunscreen even when its cloudy!!
We packed very lightly - each boy had 2 pairs of pants, 1 long sleeve shirt, 3 tee shirts, 3 pairs of underwear and 1 swimsuit. If we come back, I would bring a little more as they were often filthy. Just one more change of clothes would have been good. Also, it was colder than we expected on rainy days.
In our six weeks, we were careful with water. We bought bottled water most of the time and put it in stainless steel bottles for the boys to drink. We washed these in hot soapy water and then filled with boiling water to sanitize every day or two. We were careful when the kids were bathing and brushing teeth to keep dirty water out of their mouths.
-Our boys loved many things about Africa!! We had great adventures as a family, including a safari and rafting on the nile river.
-The boys learned a lot about their sister's culture and enjoyed trying new foods, learning words and songs in Luganda, playing drums, etc.
-They loved playing with kids and learned what it was like to be different from most of the people around them. They loved playing football with other boys especially! They also loved just getting dirty and playing for hours and hours outside each day.
-Tons of new experiences - everything from swimming in the nile river to eating ants. Awesome.
-Each of our boys had a stomach but 1-2 times. This was the hardest on our younger boys who couldn't quite make it to the toilet to throw up each time. The sicknesses were fairly mild and over quickly.
-One of our boys got a bad ear infection and had to go to the doctor. LONG waits there.
-One of our boys was like a bug magnet and got lots of bites and then scratched his bites until they were bleeding and infected. He ended up on antibiotics for that.
-Another one of our boys tried to be like his African friends and not wear shoes but ended up with cuts on the bottom of his feet. Again not a big deal, but painful for a couple days.
-Spending all day in hot sun is exhausting, especially for kids from Seattle. We found it was difficult for the boys to get enough sleep and they were often cranky.
I'm very glad we brought the boys here to Uganda. If it was just for fun, I think I would wait until the youngest was at least 5-6, but since our trip had a purpose and we wanted our boys to get to know their sisters in their home country, I think overall it was worth it!