I know this post is a bit late, considering that many families have already taken their summer vacations, but I’m putting it out there anyway, in case some of you haven’t gone yet, or can keep it in the back of your mind for next time! We just arrived home from our month long vacation in the United States.
We’ve traveled with our two young sons (currently 3 ½ and 2 ½) to the U.S. during the summer 3 years in a row now. Pretty much figured we had the routine down (nice though, right?!). And to an extent, yes. Traveling was much easier this time. We had enough snacks and toys but not so many that we broke our backs carrying the extra weight. We had a much easier time helping the kids get into at least semi-routines while staying in other people’s houses. We had figured out that, for the length of time we were staying and the places we wanted to travel to, we could save money by renting a car instead of flying within the U.S.
We had it down. UNTIL… our kids got hit with two bugs in a row: first the stomach flu, and then a contagious virus. A week of fun family outings with a family we were visiting turned into a week of four adults caring for 5 sick kids (our 2 and their 3). We managed to have plenty of at-home fun even while the flu and virus rotated from one child to another, but we did have to change our plans and cancel visiting another friend (whom I was REALLY looking forward to seeing again after several years), because we didn’t want to expose her kids to the coxsackie virus. Luckily, I have a very understanding aunt whom we had already visited, but let us crash in on her family for an extra week so the kids could fully recover and rest up before the strenuous flight back to Iraq, without being in contact with other kids.
All of this caused me to focus more on things we can do to help our kids stay healthy on vacation. We were already doing many of these things, but realized this vacation just how much of a difference these things make, both in trying to prevent illness and in being able to respond effectively while traveling when sickness does set in (and, if you travel enough, your turn will come!)
1. Make sure your kids get full nights of sleep leading up to your vacation. Of course, I’m in favor of kids sleeping well all the time, but it’s very important before traveling. Even if you are going somewhere close by, your child will get tired from the excitement of vacation and being out of their routine, and they will be exposed to new viruses and bacteria. Being well rested helps their body cope with these things as they adjust.
2. If your journey will be somewhat strenuous (e.g. including airplane travel and/or long car rides), give your kids extra vitamin boosts prior to your vacation. My husband and I have found Airborne to be effective for us, but kids have to be at least 4 to use the child version of it, so for our kids, I’ve just focused on giving them lots of extra fruits and juices prior to traveling.
3. If you are traveling to a different country, do a little research to make sure you know of any common child hood diseases in the country you’re traveling to, and prepare accordingly. Many diseases can’t be vaccinated against, but if you know in advance that they’re being passed around, you can be familiar with the symptoms and know what treatment will be needed should your child get sick.
During Your Trip
1. Travel with some basic medical supplies. In addition to emergency supplies (band aids, antiseptic cream, thermometer, etc.), take along child fever reducers (e.g. Tylenol). We were very happy that we already had this on hand when we found both of our kids getting a pretty high fever pretty quickly. One thing we DIDN’T have on hand that we will travel with next time is some sort of kids Pepto-Bismol or other stomach relief medicine. Luckily our friends had some, and of course, we could have run and bought it, but when your child is sick, it’s easier to already have stuff on hand than to start running errands.
2. When you arrive in a new area, make sure you get some emergency contact numbers (hospital, pediatrician, etc.) and keep them in your phone in case you need medical assistance.
3. Keep your kids on as much of a routine as possible.
4. Keep wet wipes or hand sanitizer on hand. Staying clean and washing regularly, especially after being in a public area can help prevent infection.
5. Remind your kids to wash their hands and brush their teeth regularly – it will be easier for them to forget while they’re on the go.
6. Remind your kids to drink lots of water – again, something it’s easier for them to forget when they’re running around having fun. Water not only helps prevent dehydration, but also plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
7. Do other parents a favor. When your kids do get sick, especially if it’s something that could spread, let the parents of other kids they’ve been around know. Many viruses are contagious through contact before symptoms surface, so if your child was playing with other kids before having symptoms, it’s possible that the other kids may have contracted it; warning the other parents can help them be prepared in case their child does get sick within a few days.
Other Tips for Parents:
1. Be flexible. When you’re traveling with kids, changing plans as a result of sickness is quite possible.
2. Know in advance whether your tickets are changeable, and what the terms are, in case you end up needing to postpone flights.
3. Accept extra help if it’s available. Taking care of sick children can run the parents down too. Try to take care of yourself as well.
4. Have fun indoor activities up your sleeve as a backup plan in case illness strikes. That way, a few days of fever or the stomach flu won’t ruin the vacation – you’ll keep having family fun in a different way!
5. Don’t have too many expectations of what you want to do or who you want to see. Be grateful for everything you do and everyone you see, but remember that your main priority is to have fun together as a family, and that’s something you can do even in the middle of flues and fevers!
Do you have any other health tips that you find effective? Please share!