Travel can be exhilarating, and for children, it can help broaden their horizons while making amazing memories that last a lifetime. For some parents, traveling with their child can seem a little intimidating, if not downright worrisome.
What if your child gets sick? What if they can’t handle flying or driving for long periods of time? What if they become disinterested? What about safety and finding the necessary services? The list of questions and concerns can go on and on, robbing you of countless hours of sleep!
Yet most experienced travelers will tell you that traveling with your children can be a wonderful experience for you both! There are also a few things you can do to help prepare for a successful adventure and minimize potential problems to let both you and your child have a low-stress travel experience.
The Pediatric Group can provide you with a number of foreign travel services at a scheduled foreign travel visit. These include review of your itinerary, analysis on the CDC website of current risks and requirements for travel, review of your child’s vaccine history, administration of necessary vaccines including typhoid (we do not carry Japanese encephalitis or yellow fever vaccines), prescribing medication for treating infections, motion sickness, altitude sickness or Malaria, counseling about what to avoid and how to protect yourself, and history and physical exam to make sure your child is healthy enough to travel.
In addition, we have advice about:
- Avoiding dogs/caves (bats) because of risk of Rabies in developing countries
- Sun protection
- Altitude adjustment and sickness
- Drinking bottle water only, and only eating cooked vegetables and fruits you peel yourself, and avoiding ice
- Insect precautions
In addition, The Pediatric Group recommends the following tips for traveling with children.
Make Sure Vaccinations Are Up To Date
Different countries can have different vaccination requirements. This is especially true in certain parts of the world where specific diseases are more prevalent. It’s best to consult with your physician at least 4 weeks in advance of planning a foreign vacation. Some vaccinations need to be given sufficient time for your body to build up the proper level of immunity.
It can also help to check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their website includes information on foreign diseases like hepatitis, yellow fever, and other dangerous pathogens that you might need to prepare for, or need additional boosters to help prevent infection.
Frequent Hand Washing And Hand Sanitize
At home and school hand washing is a routine part of your child’s life. When you travel abroad, the chances are higher that there are germs you and your child’s immune system are not fully familiar with. Frequently washing your hands, especially after touching or manipulating public objects will help reduce the chances of germs getting you or your family sick.
Keeping a small container of hand sanitizer with you at all times can also help kill germs in a situation where soap and water might not be readily available.
Develop Healthy Eating And Sleeping Habits Before Traveling
Eating right, getting exercise, and making sure that you are getting enough sleep, are key pillars in maintaining a healthy body. Developing these healthy habits before you travel will help ensure that you and your child keep them while you are away from home. It can also help your body fight off any germs you might encounter.
Chew Gum Or Eat Food While Flying
If you are flying to your destination, chances are good you and your child will need to adapt to the pressure changes at takeoff, in-flight, and at landing. If your child is old enough providing them with some sugar free gum to chew can help with their ears “Popping”, especially during landing. If they are too young to chew gum, you might want to have a chewy snack or a bottle or sippy cup ready for them to enjoy at takeoff and landing.
While this is good and often common advice for any day of the week, it can be especially helpful if you are flying. The air on planes is typically very dry, and over the course of a long flight, your child could experience mild dehydration. Keeping some lip balm or perhaps some gentle skin cream in your carry-on bag might also be helpful.
Bring Basic Home First Aid Items With You
Keeping a quality first aid kit and some basic over the counter medications with you will help you be prepared for when there is a problem. The last thing you want to do is try to find the word for bandages and thermometer in a foreign language when your child is sick or injured.
This includes packing things like:
- A small thermometer
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Topical antibiotic cream like Neosporin
- Benadryl or other antihistamines
- All prescription medications
Look Up Hospitals, Physicians, and Pharmacies At Your Destination In Advance
If you, your child or another family member is sick or injured, it can help to know where the local hospitals and physicians are. Some hotels will have a basic pharmacy or commissary, but most won’t carry prescription medications. Knowing the closest pharmacy to your hotel will help save you time and might even keep you from getting lost.
Consider Carrying Antibiotics
Bringing a broad spectrum antibiotic with you when you travel might help on some occasions, but not in all. Some bacteria that cause diarrhea or other digestive distress can be treated by antibiotics. However, most viruses do not respond at all to antibiotics.
It might be ill-advised to give your child antibiotics without knowing the cause of their symptoms. In the case of an intestinal virus, the antibiotics might harm the healthy bacteria in their digestive tract, making their underlying symptoms worse!
So, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis from a local physician before administering any antibiotics.
Consider Adapting Bedtime To Reduce Jet Lag
If your destination’s time zone is significantly different from your own, you might want to try putting your child to bed a little bit earlier or later for a week or two before traveling. Transitioning to a time zone that is earlier or east of your current time zone is generally more taxing than traveling west. Yet even when you return home again from a western time zone you risk additional jet lag issues.
In some cases, a homeopathic dose of melatonin might help you adjust to the new time zone and sleeping arrangements. Just make sure to check with your Pediatric Group physician first. We can help you with any little time zone adjustment tips and techniques.
Be Prepared For A Little Chaos
Anytime you travel, you can expect a little chaos along the way. Nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan. Try to keep in mind that children often key off the emotions of their parents and other adults around them. If something goes wrong, keeping an upbeat or accepting attitude about the inconvenience can go a long way toward helping your little one accept it as well.