Kids are germ magnets. It's a fact of life. They also seem to get sick at the most inopportune times, and having an unwell child on vacation is every parent's worst nightmare. The combination of constantly putting things in their mouth, and their general avoidance of regular hand washing, means young children are at a higher risk of becoming sick while away.
This could be a tummy bug, the flu, a cold, an ear infection, or anything in between. It is impossible to totally avoid, but with a few precautionary measures, you can minimize the risk and keep everyone healthy to enjoy the vacation. Health and safety when traveling with kids should be on top of everyone's list. These measures begin in the planning stage and will continue well into the holiday itself.
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Research health risks at your destination
Once the destination has been decided upon, the next step is to arm yourself with important information on that destination. Inform yourself of any risks posed to your family, including any foods, places, or animals to avoid. Find out what health services are available to you there, and consider checking if your regular GP will do a 'phone visit.' This may avoid a costly trip to the local GP or paediatrician, or the emergency department. If you are traveling somewhere further afield, or your child has a compromised immune system, consider a visit to a travel doctor prior to departure. They will provide you with safety tips for your destination and will be thoroughly up to speed on any vaccinations you may need.
If your child has any pre-existing medical conditions, now is the time to make sure all prescriptions are filled, and that you have access to anything you may require while you are away, including relevant health care.
Prevention is better than cure
While it is impossible to avoid illnesses totally, there are a few ways to reduce the risk of your little one becoming sick. We've listed five preventative measures to remember when on vacation.
1. Establish a non-negotiable hand washing routine
This is the number one way to reduce the risk of becoming ill from anything contagious, both while on vacation and at home. Encourage them to wash prior to every meal. Try singing a chosen song so they wash for the recommended 20 seconds with both soap and water, followed by a rinse, and then dry.
2. Stay hydrated
Family vacations often involve a plane ride, a warm climate, and physical activity, all requiring additional hydration. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, as this will remind you to offer regular sips to your child. Experts recommend an additional 8oz of water should be consumed per one hour of plane travel. Being fully hydrated will give their immune system the best chance, both while traveling and at your destination.
3. Be sun-smart. Everyone is aware of the dangers of sun exposure, particularly with young children. But too much sun exposure not only results in sunburn or sunstroke but can also cause the immune system to become compromised and reduces its efficiency. Making sure your child is well protected with sunscreen, a hat, and clothing, while trying to avoid the strongest rays of the day (10 am – 4 pm) will allow them to enjoy the sunshine throughout the vacation.
4. Plenty of sleep. Try to keep to their regular sleep routine as much as possible, and this includes daytime naps. Pack their favorite blanket or toy if it will mean a better night's sleep for them, as a tired child is more susceptible to illness. Consider scheduling a few rest days in-between days full of activity, as vacations are big experiences for little people.
5. A healthy diet. Little tummies are developed within their environment and the bugs they are exposed to. This means that their immune system normally has the ability to protect against the usual suspects found in the food at home.
A different country, and the introduction of new foods and microflora, can result in an upset (or worse) tummy. If traveling to another country, by all means, encourage your kids to sample the local cuisine. This is, after all, an excellent way for your child to learn about the culture.
Just keep in mind to balance these new foods with foods they are used to, and this will result in a happy tummy for the duration of the trip. Veering away from an excess of holiday treats and unhealthy snacks is another way to maintain a strong immune system, so consider starting the vacation on a good foot by packing healthy snacks for the plane ride. This will mean they will avoid the usually unhealthy (and expensive) snacks found in airports.
What to do if the kids get sick
The number one rule frequent travelers abide by, particularly ones with children, is to get travel insurance. This peace of mind will usually cost around 7-10% of the total price of your vacation but will be of excellent value if someone falls ill or has an accident. Do your research, and choose a cover that suits your needs, activities, and destination.
If traveling overseas, consider packing a medical travel kit. This will save you both time and money if there is an accident or someone falls ill.
Things to consider packing in the kit are:
- Pain relief medication
- Motion sickness relief medication
- Allergy relief/Saline spray for kids
- Antibacterial ointment and wipes
- Cough drops
- Any prescription medication family members are currently on
- Adult cold medication
- Bandages of different sizes
If someone does succumb to the tummy bug, or there was a little too much fun in the sun the day before, this might be the opportunity to have a quiet day to rest and regroup. If you are staying at a hotel or resort, inform the staff, and organize an appropriate time for them to clean the room. This will avoid disrupting the little patient, and staff can take precautions if it is contagious. A fresh room and fresh towels will also reduce the risk of other family members becoming unwell.
With a little forward planning and a few precautionary measures, the whole family can enjoy a happy and healthy vacation.
Have fun and stay safe
This wraps up our article on How to Avoid the Kids Getting Sick While Traveling. We hope you have found it helpful and enjoyed the article. For more articles on traveling with kids be sure to check out our blog for titles such as Why You Should Travel With Kids, Top 10 Instagram Worthy Aussie Bucket List Destinations, and The Best-Ever Tips for Traveling with Babies plus much much more! Till next time..