Whether you’re headed to visit family or off to another continent, travel with kids requires a different set of logistics. It may be intimidating at first, but with a little planning and preparation (via CDC, WHO, and Lonely Planet), it can be largely stress free and a wonderful experience for all! Here are some easy ways to keep you and your family healthy while traveling, no matter how far your wanderlust takes you.
Preparing for your Adventure
Check the CDC website for health warnings and information about health requirements for travel to your specific destination **Remember, some vaccines require multiple doses, and medications like antimalarials should be started 2 weeks prior to travel, so allow ample time (approx. 4-6 weeks).
- Be sure to find a good travel doctor, just in case.
As a mom and frequent traveler, I always travel with a small first aid kid. Clean bandages, a few blister covers for all that walking we’re going to do, an antihistamine, bug repellant, and an ace bandage – we’re all set! Depending on your destination and your family’s health needs, you may want to add items, but make sure it’s something small enough to carry with you.
Put a folder together with your medical history to bring with you, especially if anyone in your family has a health condition. Any daily medications, epi-pens, or prescriptions should be packed safely in your carry-on bags – lost luggage, anyone?
- Map the closest health facilities near where you’ll be staying
When kids are stressed out, it can impact their health (just like it does to adults) and their ability to get good rest. Help reduce stress by talking through travel plans with them and involving them in planning activities. Maybe allow little ones to bring a familiar toy for comfort, though you may want to have a backup in case it gets misplaced.
During your Adventure
Rest, Rest Baby!
- Travel with kids is exhausting! We know no one wants to miss a moment, but the body is better prepared to fight off illness when it is well-rested and well-nourished.
- If there is a time difference of more than 3 hours, fight jetlag by getting the crew on local time ASAP and do your best to keep your overall schedule as “normal” as possible (i.e. sleep when it’s dark, and play when it’s light, just like they would at home.)
- Even if your kids don’t normally nap, try to make ample time for even just a rest time – nothing spells disaster like a tired toddler or teenager, trust me!
Be wise – sanitize!
No matter where or how you travel, the very nature of the game means more exposure to germs. Good hand washing practices can help keep most tummy troubles at bay as well - keep a pack of antibacterial hand wipes in your bag for when you’re on the go (I like these).
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
With filtered water, of course. Not all water is safe to drink straight from the tap, especially if traveling to various corners of the world, so in some cases you may want to purchase purified bottled water for brushing teeth, ice cubes, and baby formula (if applicable), in addition to drinking. Light-weight canteens are great to keep the kiddos cool as you explore!
Common Adventure Buzz-kills
This happens most frequently on boats and planes, but can happen on any mode of transportation. Motion sickness causes nausea that is typically mild, but can be quite uncomfortable. Relief can usually be found in small bland meals like crackers or some ginger ale, as well as cool fresh air.
A new environment can wreak havoc on tiny tummies (and adult tummies too!). One of the most common illnesses, diarrhea is usually easily prevented with good hand washing and the mantra “if you can’t boil it, peel it, or cook it – forget it!” Remember though, food doesn’t have to be bad in order to upset a stomach – anything the body isn’t used to will take time to adjust. It doesn’t mean you and the kids can’t enjoy local cuisine – but take it easy on the spices and maybe have some crackers and water on hand just in case.
- Diarrhea is usually easily managed with good hydration, but it can be dangerous (particularly for infants and small children) as they are more vulnerable to the loss of fluids and subsequent dehydration. Take your child to a doctor immediately if their poop is black or has blood.
- Bring a few Oral Hydration Salt packets with you just in case – you can go to your pharmacy, purchase them (we like these), or mix your own if you have the correct amounts of sugar, salt, and clean water.
- Car accidents and water-related injuries are the primary health risks for many kids. Be sure to bring car seats as rentals are not available in all countries, and practice good water safety.
- Environmental Factors – different areas mean exposure to different risks. When researching your trip, look into the various insects, animals, weather and other factors you may come in contact with. For example, mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria and heatstroke are more common in tropical climates, so appropriate sun protection, insect repellant, and antimalarial medication would be needed. Kids are more likely to come into direct contact with soil-based worms or parasites, so be sure they always wear shoes when playing.
Recovering from your Adventure
Certain medications may be more cost effective to purchase once at your destination. Consider purchasing some just in case so you’ll have it on hand if you need it once you get home (example – antimalarials are much more expensive in the US).
Depending on the location you’ve just visited, you may want to consider getting a check-up once you’ve returned just to be sure all is well. Track and symptoms or changes in your family's health with your Kinsa thermometer so you can show it to your doctor.
Be sure to take along your Kinsa thermometer for the adventure. The best part about the QuickCare is that all you need is your smartphone! Stay on top of the whole family's health, both on the trip and at home, and find guidance if you're not sure what to do next.
This post was written by Michaela Hayes. Michaela is a public health nerd and WAHM to a 17 month old toddler. With a background in international health education and child development, Michaela has leveraged her perpetually wandering feet to promote positive sexual and family health across the globe. She lives with her husband and daughter in the Bay Area.