TRAVEL CLINIC: IS IT SAFE TO TAKE KIDS TO CHIANG MAI?

Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts, including a doctor and a lawyer

I'm planning on taking my children, aged five and seven, to northern Thailand this October or December. I visited the hilltribe villages there many years ago as a backpacker. Last week I read horror stories about the increased risk of malaria in north-east Thailand and the resistance of mosquitoes to the prophylactics available . Which other areas are at risk and what would you recommend for my children?

Mark Wright

Alton, Hampshire

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Prophylactic medication against malaria is not necessary when visiting most areas in Thailand. It is not a problem in urban areas or resorts and only rarely encountered in rural regions.

The exceptions are a few border areas. The important risk areas are found on the borders of Cambodia and Burma, although the incidence of malaria can vary depending on the season. In fact, some of these destinations are militarised zones and are not often visited by travellers.

The problem is that malaria has become resistant to the usual prophylactic medication, including mefloquine, in these regions. The alternative medication, doxycycline, cannot be taken by children.

Medical facilities in Thailand are generally good and advice regarding risk and problems with malaria can be sought from local clinics.

Apart from malaria, mosquitoes can carry other diseases of which you should be aware. Dengue fever is on the increase in Thailand and the mosquito species responsible tends to bite during the day. Japanese B Encephalitis is a risk when visiting some rural areas in the north, but is only really a problem between May and October.

Use insect repellents on exposed skin and reapply them at least every four hours.Try to wear long sleeves and trousers when going out at night, at which time the mosquito that carries malaria is likely to be around.

Use a knockdown spray or other device for killing mosquitoes in the room before going to bed. If not sleeping in an air-conditioned or well screened room, then sleep under a mosquito net that has been treated with an insecticide.

Avoid the high-risk areas I have mentioned and make sure that you take measures to avoid mosquito bites. It would probably be best to stick to the usual tourist centres if you are with children. For more information on travelling with children, ring Nomad travel pharmacy for our free leaflet.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; Tel: 0181-889 7014), which specialises in catering for travellers' needs.

I WANT BETTER COMPENSATION

I arranged return flights to New Zealand with Trailfinders and asked for special assistance for my disabled daughter, Lydia. Unknown to me the return flight was at 19.30 from Auckland to Los Angeles, and not at 23.50 as I had been advised. I was stranded in Auckland with my three children and had to find my own accommodation overnight and another flight the following day. This meant that my family missed their stopover in Los Angeles where we were to meet a friend who had a hotel booked for us in Long Beach and a trip to Disneyland for the Sunday. I claimed compensation from Trailfinders, but they blame another organisation called Galileo who have since offered compensation of only pounds 220, pounds 111 of which I had spent on hotels anyway. Can you help?

Catherine Harker

Oxford

Ian Skuse replies: From the correspondence you have sent to me, there can be little doubt that someone has made a mistake in giving you the wrong departure time for the Auckland to Los Angeles flight. Trailfinders investigated your complaint with Galileo, which is one of the airline's reservation systems for flight seats, to try to establish how you could be given an incorrect time for the return flight. Their investigation shows that Qantas advised of a change in flight some time in August last year, but information on the computer can only be checked for up to six months. Galileo cannot explain why the correct flight time was not passed on to you. As a consumer, you have no direct relationship with Galileo, and any claim you might bring would have to be aimed at Trailfinders. The sums offered are very low indeed, especially as I am sure your children were bitterly disappointed in missing out on Disneyland.

The Travel Editor adds: After taking Ian Skuse's advice, Mrs Harker held out for increased compensation of pounds 911, which she has now received.

Ian Skuse is the senior litigation partner with Piper Smith & Basham, which has specialised in advising the travel industry for over 20 years (tel: 0171-8288685).

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