What do I do if my baby gets sick while traveling?

Friday, August 5, 2016

I mentioned in my recent post about multi-family trips that Baby ISO got sick while we were traveling in Latvia. It is safe to say that this is every parents' worse fear -- a sick baby with no idea what to do or where to see a doctor while in a foreign country.

Here's our experience. On our second night in Plienciems, Latvia, I woke up to nurse Baby ISO and was alarmed by how hot he felt. I woke up J and together we worried and took turns checking on him throughout the rest of the early morning hours. We've been fortunate as Baby ISO has never had a fever before, so we didn't know what to do and didn't want to give him an antipyretic (like Tylenol) just yet. When the sun finally came up, we saw that the rash he had throughout the previous week (we had our doctor check it before we left, but she wasn't concerned as there were no other symptoms) was alarmingly angry-looking. That combined with fever and general malaise pretty much sent us into panic mode.

Here is where traveling with another family was unbelievably helpful and comforting. By about this time, our friends woke up and they looked at Baby ISO and provided some advice. Because there son is slightly older, he has had a fever and they had some suggestions for how to reduce his fever without medications such as dressing him lightly and making sure he stayed hydrated.

We were due to check out of our Airbnb in Plienciems anyway, so we packed up the car and headed directly to Riga, all while trying to stay relaxed and keep Baby ISO comfortable and cool. Prior to leaving, we downloaded a PDF of the medical facilities suggested by the US Embassy in Riga and dialed a private clinic with a pediatrician into our GPS. We stopped along the way to pick up a thermometer (I had left ours in the car overnight and it was still too cold to register). By this point I had also texted our doctor in Vilnius for advice, who suggested we head to a clinic.

Here is where things got a bit tricky. Upon arrival to Riga, we parked our car near the clinic and parted with our friends who were going to explore Riga. We were to meet up again after a doctor's visit. Unfortunately, the first clinic didn't have a pediatrician available until very late in the evening, so we went back to the car to find another clinic on the embassy's list. Long story short, that clinic also didn't have a pediatrician; in fact, the receptionist said that Latvia lacked pediatricians so she suggested we go straight to the public children's hospital. And that is exactly what we did.

Both J and I were skeptical about bringing Baby ISO to the public hospital, but there was no other option. After an initial intake evaluation by a medical professional and some discussion over payment/insurance, we were seated to wait for a doctor. In around 5-10 minutes, a doctor called our name and we were invited back -- with the stipulation that only one parent is allowed at a time. This was rather upsetting, but instead of arguing, I took Baby ISO back and we were shown into a private room. The doctor then examined him and started treating him. We were assigned a young female doctor who spoke excellent English, which I wasn't expecting. Baby ISO's treatment was excellent and the hospital appeared to be a teaching hospital as several specialists came in to look at him.

Based on this experience, my tips if you are ever in a similar situation are:

1) Stay calm


I know this is easier said than done, but staying calm is key. Because we stayed clear-headed, we were able to get Baby ISO to a doctor to get the treatment he required. We didn't flip out (too much, at least) when the two of us weren't allowed to enter the hospital together (J stayed in the waiting room). We were; however, persistent in asking to both be allowed into the hospital to care for Baby ISO. 

2) Check the embassy's web page


We checked the US Embassy in Riga's webpage for recommendations for health clinics. Similarly, prior to your travels (or during them, you can search this information to feel extra prepared. Just search for the embassy's recommendations in the city nearest you.

3) Advocate

If something seems wrong, say something. Trying to communicate in a different country and language can be daunting, especially when you are already tense, but if you don't understand or aren't sure of something, ask.

4) Be flexible

Your travel plans may have to change and this is okay. We had planned to be on Saaremaa Island, Estonia, but called the Airbnb hosts to inform them we wouldn't be making it. Instead, we stayed in Riga for two nights to ensure that Baby ISO had recovered.

Have you or your child ever gotten sick while traveling? What did you do?


  1. Did you get to use your EU insurance card? It does sound very stressful, but seems like you all handled so great!

    1. Yes, we have an international insurance card, but it took a little while to explain that (language barrier issues). We ended up having to pay 60 EUR upfront, but we could get that reimbursed.

      Thanks, Bailie!