Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that is present worldwide and is one of the most common neurological diseases among the youth population. Its symptoms include fatigue, lack of balance, pain, visual and cognitive alterations, difficulties talking or trembling.
One patient with multiple sclerosis is different from another, i.e. it is a disease whose course cannot be exactly predicted and that starts to appear in young people when they start working. It is more frequent in women than men. The bad thing about the disease is that what causes it remains unknown and it doesn't have a cure. But, the positive thing is that it isn't fatal, hereditary or contagious.
THE INCIDENCE OF MS IN CHILDREN IN SPAIN
Even though it isn't very common, MS can also appear in children, being considered child MS if it appears before 16 years of age. There are different studies which affirm that between 2 percent and 5 percent of the cases will occur before this age, even though MS occurs before 10 years of age in less than 1 percent of the cases. There around 400 cases of child MS in Spain.
Through the Asociación Española de Esclerosis Multiple (AEDEM) (Spanish Association for Multiple Sclerosis) we asked a couple of questions about the main precautions and suggestions for traveling with children who suffer from MS to Dr. Antonio Yusta Izquierdo, Head of Neurology of the Hospital Universitario de Guadalajara (Guadalajara University Hospital) and of the Unidad de Daño Cerebral (Brain Damage Unit) of the Instituto de Enfermedades Neurológicas de Castilla-La Mancha (Castile-La Mancha Institute of Neurological Disorders). He is also a Neurology Professor of the School of Medicine of the Universidad de Alcalá (Alcalá University). This is the result.
1. What basic precautions should be taken when considering traveling with a child who has MS?
It depends on the degree of disability. Traveling in high temperatures must be especially avoided since the ambient heat can cause an increased sensation of exhaustion and fatigue. Also, if the body temperature increases, the clinical symptoms of a previous episode can reappear. You should stop the car every couple of hours so the child can walk and stretch his/her muscles. Hydration is essential. The child must be well hydrated and, as much as possible, maintain his/her meal and rest times.
2. Should any precautions be taken when traveling with medication? What if you are traveling by plane?
To travel, the child must not be suffering from an attack. MS treatment for children is similar to that for adults, although there is much less experience in this area. Some treatments need to be transported in portable freezers that are small and easy to carry. In other, less frequent cases, treatment is intravenous and the frequency with which the treatment is applied must be taken into account. Traveling by plane is NOT contraindicated for patients with multiple sclerosis. A neurologist's report indicating the need for the treatment will suffice for transporting an injectable treatment. In some cases it will be transported inside the plane cabin, but it will not be a problem with a physician's report.
3. How should you act if you need medical attention at your destination?
You should always travel with a neurologist's report stating the disease diagnosis, the date of the first attack, the number of attacks, when the last one was, the current clinical condition and the treatment that is being applied. If neurological symptoms occur, go to the nearest hospital and present the report. It is important to carry a Health Card or a European Health Card if visiting countries in the EU.
If the child has a fever, it must be treated as soon as possible with fever reducers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.) Fever reducers should be administered starting at 37.5ºC to prevent excessive fatigue and the reappearance of neurological symptoms.
4. Are there any factors to take into account regarding the travel destination due to the weather or any other circumstances?
No destinations must be avoided due to having multiple sclerosis. Be especially careful when traveling to very hot and humid places, for the aforementioned reasons. In these circumstances, the child must be well hydrated and avoid exposure to the sun, especially at midday and during the early afternoon hours. The child should also avoid physical exercise in places with high temperatures. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed, and with proper precautions, multiple sclerosis should not prevent these little one from having a good time and discovering new places.