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Contact with animals

Children are exposed to all kinds of parasites whilst playing outside on trips abroad. If a child is still crawling, the area where they are playing should be covered with a mat so as to avoid direct contact with the ground. For the same reason, older children should always wear shoes.

Rabies is common in many areas of the world. It is not only spread by wild or stray animals but also by pets and domestic animals. Children are more likely to be bitten than adults and they do not always tell their parents when they have been bitten.

The best way to protect children against rabies and other diseases is to avoid all contact with animals while abroad. We highly recommended that children be vaccinated against rabies in advance of travelling to certain foreign countries. If a child is bitten, the wound should be washed at once with soap and water. Medical advice should also be sought immediately. In many cases treatment will involve rabies vaccines and a course of antibiotics.


Drowning is the second most common cause of death among children when abroad. Proper supervision is the most important measure that can be taken. Life jackets are not available in all countries: if necessary, take them with you from home.

Whilst swimming children swallow a lot more water than adults do. The water may be polluted with faeces, which increases the risk of infections. Contact with surface water can also cause diseases such as schistosomiasis

High altitudes

Children are more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults and complications can be much more serious. Young children should not be taken to an altitude higher than 2500 metres.


Too much exposure to sunlight before the age of fifteen years increases the risk of malignant skin cancer in later life. Avoiding exposure to the sun is the most effective means of prevention. Even in the shade skin can burn so a sunscreen should always be used. For children, a protection factor of thirty or higher is the most suitable. If an anti-insect repellent which contains DEET is also applied, this can reduce the protection factor by a third. To avoid this, it is best to wait 30 minutes after applying the sunscreen before using a product containing DEET.