Healthy Family Holiday Tips
Summer is here upon us and you may be preparing to jetset away on an exciting family holiday. Whenever we travel as a family, we hope it will be full of fun and wonderful adventures. However one major concern we face is that ‘we hope our family remain healthy whilst away.’ So, if a health problem arises, let’s be prepared. We will cover travel vaccines, travel sickness, air travel, tips for prevention of food and waterborne illnesses and what to do if things go wrong.
“Do I require any vaccines before entering a country?”
It is worth going that extra mile to prevent diseases. When we are travelling and relying on food being prepared by others, we are assuming premium hygiene practices will be followed. However this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes hygiene levels can slip and unfortunately it can cause some very serious illnesses. If you are travelling to countries like Thailand, Indonesia (Bali), Fiji or any other 3rd world holiday spot, it is worth being covered for Hepatitis A and Typhoid which are not part of the routine immunisation schedule. Hepatitis A can be given to children over 1 year old and the Typhoid vaccine can be given to children over 2 years old. If you are thinking, ‘I’ve been to these countries before and have never fallen ill’, you are lucky. It is true, it is not common, however it can happen even in 5 star accommodation. Tourists have been known to contract illnesses eg Typhoid (‘Salmonella poisoning’) or hepatitis A caused by poor hygiene when preparing food or drinking the local tap water. So before getting on that plane, speak to your GP or go and see your nearest travel clinic. There is also a great government website called smartraveller.gov.au where you can search for the country you are visiting and it will give you appropriate health advice (e.g. whether malaria preventative/prophylactic medicines are required or specialised vaccines, like yellow fever vaccine is required)
Unfortunately in about 15% of children, ear pain is experienced on the plane’s descent. However infants and young children can relieve the pressure and/or pain by performing a few simple tasks:
- The process of swallowing will help. With infants, breastfeeding or giving a bottle will help. Older children can eat some food, or chew chewing gum to help unblock their ears.
- There are ear plugs you can purchase from most pharmacies called Children’s Earplanes. The ear plugs are a patented pressure-regulating earplug inserted in the ear to help reduce discomfort often associated with air travel. As long as your child will allow you to insert them, they can be used from 1 year of age and are useful to take with you. From personal experience they work really well with regard to pressure buildup and pain in the ear on take off and descent.
Unfortunately with travelling on an aeroplane you just never know who you are sitting near and we end up breathing in recirculated air. Saline nasal sprays (eg. Flo and Fess) are very handy to carry onboard the plane as keeping the nasal passages constantly moist will flush out any air-borne bacteria.
Whether it be on a plane, boat, bus or car, travel sickness is not pleasant. It doesn’t generally occur in a child under two years of age. Symptoms of travel sickness include: nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Trying simple measures (e.g. breathing fresh air, staying calm and distractions (like music)). If your child is watching a movie, ensure they are not looking down, rather have them looking up or at eye level. However, if those measures have been tried and do not help, then children over the age of 2 years old, can be given over the counter medicines. The medicine needs to be given prior and during the travel period, as once the nausea begins, the body’s response is to slow digestion and any food or medicine will most likely be vomited. Sedating antihistamines are generally the most effective medicines recommended for children with motion sickness (e.g. Phenergan (Promethazine) liquid) can be given from 2 years of age- It should be given the night before travel and every 6-8 hours whilst travelling. Whilst it can cause drowsiness, it can also cause a paradoxical effect which is hyperactivity. It is recommended trialling the medicine at home before travelling to determine this. Dimenhydrinate is a sedating antihistamine found in Travacalm original together with Hyoscine, another ingredient, which helps relieve travel sickness. However both ingredients can cause drowsiness so they are formulated with a small amount of caffeine to counteract the drowsiness. Travacalm original can be given to a child over the age of 4. It comes as a tablet but can be crushed and mixed with jam or honey if need be. Travacalm also comes in a shorter acting tablet, if travelling for a shorter period of time (i.e. less than six hours). It contains the ingredient hyoscine and comes as a strawberry chewable tablet. Other options for travel sickness is using complementary practices which have been found to be beneficial (e.g.acupuncture) through wearing a bracelet on the wrist called Sea-Band which target a pressure point to relieve nausea or alternatively ginger can be given from the age of 2 years.
Preventing food and waterborne illnesses
These diseases can be prevented by careful choices of what and where to eat and ensuring clean water is used for all purposes eg drinking, brushing teeth, preparing a formula bottle etc. The following are important tips to follow:
- Use bottled water; ensure you break the seal yourself
- Carry a hand sanitiser (eg.Aqium) and use before eating
- Ensure your children do not put their hands in their mouths (for a baby, offer a toy or teether that you have sterilised and placed in a snap-lock bag), if its a nail biting child- place on their nails Stop n Grow, or Revitanail grow and protect, to try and break the nail biting habit. (Try and break the habit before leaving home)
- Avoid ice
- Avoid raw salads
- Eat well-cooked food that has just been served
- Avoid raw seafood and food from street vendors
- Check on the container that any milk, yogurt, or ice-cream brought is pasteurised. In Australia it’s illegal to sell any non-pasteurised dairy food however different countries have different laws.
- Eat fruit and vegetables that you can peel the skin off eg- Apples, bananas, oranges, carrots etc
Cuts, grazes and burns
When you are away from your regular routine, accidents seem to happen more frequently. Whether it’s a tumble in a new pair of thongs/flip-flops, or a fall on some uneven footpath or even a burn from a spilt hot drink. What to do when these circumstances arise?
A scald can occur from a hot drink, or hot bath water, or hot food ie sauce, or cooking oils, a hair straightener etc.
- Place the burnt skin under cold running water for 20 minutes
- Do not place ice, ice water or an ice pack directly on skin
- If the burn is bigger than a 20 cent piece or you are not sure how severe the burn is- get medical assistance.
- Do not pop any blisters
- Do not put any lotions, moisturisers, oil or butter on burns, the only recommended product to place on a burn is a hydrogel which you can carry with you in your medicine travel bag. Brands include Solosite and Intrasite gel. Always cover a burn with a non-stick dressing. I always travel with a few opsite dressings (which have a non-stick padded area with a waterproof film on top.)
- It is a medical emergency (i.e call ambulance) if the burn is bigger than the child’s hand and/or the burn is to the face, genitals, airways or hands.
Cuts and Grazes
We are unfortunately all too aware of how common a cut and a graze can be in young children. Usually, it is a matter of cleaning the wound and covering it up to minimise the risk of infection. Remember to carry in your medicine travel bag an antiseptic, non-stick dressings (eg. Melolin dressings), scissors, adhesive tape, different shaped band-aids and a crepe bandage. If you are travelling to a third world country, I would recommend carrying a few small plastic vials of sterile saline solution in your suitcase which can be purchased from any pharmacy in order to clean a wound. If you are travelling to a country where the water is safe to drink, clean the wound with running tap water before applying an antiseptic. Cover the graze/cut with a plaster or dressing (e.g. opsite dressing).
Always stop the bleeding before applying a dressing:
- Apply a small amount of pressure to the area to stop the bleeding using a tissue, paper towel or dressing.
- To help reduce the bleeding you can get your child to raise their arm above their head if the cut is on arm/hand or if the cut is on the leg, lay your child down and raise the leg above the level of the heart.
Keep the dressing clean and change as often as necessary, at least once a day to monitor it for signs of infection. Signs of infection include:
- swelling of the affected area
- pus forming in the affected area
- redness spreading from the cut or graze
- increasing pain in the wound
- feeling generally unwell
- a high temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
- swollen glands
Always seek medical help if you:
- Cannot stop the bleeding
- believe the graze/cut has become infected
- If the cut is extensive or gaping open
Babies and young children should be watched carefully during hot weather. They can quickly lose body fluids through perspiring, which can lead to dehydration. They need to drink regularly, wear light clothing and be kept cool. Our children can get very distracted whilst on holidays and forget to drink but in hot weather keep offering your children cool fluids, preferably water. If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby more often. Have plenty of fluids yourself, including a cool drink at every feed. If you are bottle feeding, offer extra cool, boiled water after each bottle.
Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.
Disclaimer – The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.