Search icon

Travel + Fun

29th Dec 2018

“Avoid Asia with young children” warns doctor, as trend for long-haul winter breaks continue to grow

Trine Jensen-Burke

Tempted to book a long-haul break for some winter sun in the new year?

But glorious as Thailand and Bali might sound right now, you might be better to avoid these in favour of somewhere else, at least if you are travelling with young kids in tow.

Accordingt to Norwegian doctor Per Kristian Opheim, insurance companies in the country (and other Scandinavian countries) get in an increasing amount of claims about illness and medical emergencies abroad regarding children aged 0-15 – especially in regards to travels in regions outside Europe, North America and Australia.

Opheim, who works for SOS International, an assistance organisation in the Nordic region, which, from alarm centres in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, provides acute personal assistance all over the world, goes as far as saying children should not travel to countries in Asia or Africa until they are at least five, mostly due to a difference in bacterial flora, something which can lead to a variety of gastric problems (diarrhea, vomiting) which in turn can lead to dehydration.

In a press release to NTB, the medical expert explains:

“More and more parents bring their children on exotic holidays to far-flung destinations, and we see this rather clearly on the insurance claims statisitcs,” Opheim explains.

“But the reality is that parents should really not be bringing their children to places outside Europe, North America or Australia before the child has reached five, the reason mostly being due to the overall bacteria flora being so different. When the child is older and has a bigger body volume, they won’t get dehydrated if ill quite as quickly.”

Problems getting help locally


Having a child who isn’t well is stressful to any parents, and maybe especially so when abroad, especially somwhere where language and customs might make you feel rather helpless when it comes to getting that child seen to by medical professionals.

And as young children are more prone to coming down with anything from ear infection to fevers than older kids and adults, this could turn into a rather stressful situation for the family.

“We often see that our customers get more stressed and concerned when it comes to issues concerning their children than if it is adults who have taken ill,” explains communication manager Georg Richvoldsen in Codan Forsikring, a Norwegian based insurance company.

“In regards to their children, they often also have higher expectations and demands when it comes to the follow-up after a medical issue has occured.”

Richvoldsen explains that the quality of health services vary greatly between countries in Asia, and can even vary from whereabouts in a country you are holidaying.


 “We get the impression that many don’t really look into the health services in the country they are travelling to, and sort of take for granted that the standard of care and services are good.”

Top 5 countries for medical assistance needed

  1. Thailand
  2. The Philippines
  3. Vietnam
  4. Indonesia
  5. China