Saturday, August 11, 2007

Car Seats in Asia?

Before we went to Thailand and India, we made an appointment with a specialist in pediatric travel medicine at the children’s hospital. After a long wait, the doctor told us that BabyG didn’t need any shots or extra vaccinations beyond what she already had, but then the doctor read off a long list of precautions we should take:

*Dress the baby in long sleeves and pants
*Apply insect repellent on all exposed skin daily
*Apply permethrin to the baby’s clothes (another kind of insect repellent)
*Avoid rural areas and contact with animals
*Give the baby mefloquine to prevent malaria (based on BabyG’s weight, she recommended a quarter of the regular tablet)
*Use a car seat.

“The number one cause of child mortality in foreign countries is motor vehicle crashes,” she said.

The bill for talking to this specialist, even though she didn’t give BabyG any medicines, was over one hundred dollars. I remember thinking, we better heed her advice since it cost us so much. MaGreen bought Ultrathon insect repellent, which worked very well. We soaked the clothes in permethrin instead of spraying it on, since it repels insects longer that way. The house started to reek of poison while we did this, so we shifted the operation outside. Apparently, once the permethrin has bonded to the fibers in the clothing, it is not known to be toxic to humans. We even packed a mosquito net.

But a car seat? How could we carry BabyG’s huge Britax car seat around Asia? In my previous trips to India, I had never seen anyone use a car seat. Even my brother and sister-in-law, who are very safety conscious doctors, didn’t use one with their son while in Asia. But the doctor’s words rang in our ears. Number one cause of child mortality. After all of our preparations and expenses, what kind of parents would we be if BabyG got hurt because we didn’t put her in a car seat? People wanted to take Britney Spears’ kid away from her because she got caught by the paparazzi not using one. So we bought a $40 portable car seat off the web. The user reviews were mixed, but the manufacturer said it could fit into backpacks and weighed less than 4 pounds.

In Thailand, none of the taxis we encountered had seat belts in the back seat. They seemed to have been cut out. The tuk-tuks, which are like rikshaws, were built without seat belts. And sometimes tuk-tuks were the only mode of transport available. When we went to Khao Yai National Park, we specially arranged in advance for a taxi that did have seat belts. After a long and difficult instillation, we managed to get BabyG in the car seat on the way there. But on the way back, she absolutely refused to sit in it.

In India, my cousin’s van was also built without seatbelts and by that time we were resigned to holding BabyG in our lap or letting her sit on the floor. According to one of my uncles, fatalities from crashes in India happen for completely different reasons than they do in the US.

Most of the time, in India, motor vehicles are rarely driving over twenty-five miles per hour, so collisions between small vehicles at high speeds, where a seat belt would really help, don’t happen frequently, he said. Sometimes cars get trapped between large trucks on the two-lane roads, he added, and then a seatbelt will help no one.

As you can imagine, I didn’t find this analysis very reassuring! And yet, we all survived – praise the Green Goddesses -- and BabyG enjoyed the break from car seats as you can see in the pictures. (When we passed cows on the road, she mooed with glee.)


Shrijnana said...

Glad to hear no one had an accident. Just wondering, did you use the car seat at all? Would it have been useful on the plane?

MaGreen said...

we only used it a couple times: in the taxi to airport and back in the us, on the long car trip in thailand. the car seat was very hard to install, and i never felt it was safe. if baby g kicked and screamed because she hated it, the base of the seat slid forward and she'd sort of hang from the seat.

on the airplane she was a lap baby. i was her carseat...

i remember our friend gemini telling us that in bangladesh her family refused to let her use th carseat she brought from america because it took up so much room. i thought she was insane, couldn't imagine letting babyg in a car without one. once i accepted there was no way to strap her in, i just accepted the carseat vacation. of course, we were always poised next to her, hovering. i mean, she wasn't crawling all over the car the way i used to when i was a child. she was stationary, close to us, and that was the best we could do.

luis said...

Great post!

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