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Every parent is concerned about keeping their family healthy before, during and after vacation. If you’re traveling with children, the last thing you want is for them to spend their vacation sick in bed. Whether you are planning to take a road trip or travel by airplane, there are steps you can take to avoid getting sick. We all want our family to stay healthy while traveling with children.
At the time of writing this post there is great concern around the world about the Coronavirus. Thankfully this pandemic won’t last forever, and normal travel will resume in the future. In the meantime it is up to every individual to decide what is right for their family, before choosing if/where/when/how to travel.
In this post we will discuss some strategies to help you and your family to stay healthy while traveling with children. Even if you decide to remain local and have a staycation (a portmanteau of “stay” and “vacation”) over spring break, then many of these strategies would be good practice, and helpful in everyday life as you travel around the town where you live!
Use the Table of Contents below to quickly skip to any section of this post.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus, and we are learning more about it every day. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. At this point, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes it. Stopping transmission (spread) of the virus through everyday practices is the best way to keep people healthy. More information is available from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Strategies to Stay Healthy while Traveling with Children:
1. Practice good hand hygiene
Children’s immune systems are less developed than those of adults, and this makes them more vulnerable to illness. Most children are not typically good about keeping things out of their mouths, and they aren’t particularly careful with hand hygiene.
Washing hands often, especially before meals, is the best way to prevent illness, at home or while traveling. You should help small children wash hands and teach older kids how to wash their hands thoroughly. Using warm soap and water, lather up and scrub all over for 20 seconds, then rinse and dry.
2. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to stay healthy while traveling with children
For tips on hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer visit the CDC website here.
How to make hand sanitizer
At the time of writing we are experiencing a shortage in supply of hand sanitizing gel due to the coronavirus. I have been unable to purchase it online or in any of the local stores I have searched in Western North Carolina. If you are having the same problem, then did you know you can make your own hand sanitizer at home? It’s even a project your kids can do, or assist you with. Check out this video about how to make hand sanitizer.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to stay healthy while traveling with children
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Encourage your kids not to put dirty hands, or other things, in their mouth.
4. Teach children to cover their mouth and nose
Remind children of the importance of covering their mouth and nose with a tissue, or using their elbow, when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Discard the tissue in a trash can and then wash hands.
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5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces to stay healthy while traveling with children
Use antibacterial wipes to wipe down surfaces when you travel such as tray tables, airplane armrests and lavatory door handles. Germs linger longer on non porous materials like plastic. You should also disinfect your vacation rental or hotel room by cleaning door knobs, light switches, telephone receivers and remote controls.
6. Get necessary vaccinations prior to travel
Before you travel anywhere out of the country, make sure you don’t need any special vaccinations. Visit the CDC’s website to check their latest travel health notices. Travel notices provide information about current health issues related to specific international destinations.
7. Keep medication in your hand luggage
You never know when your flight may be delayed or your checked luggage may get lost. Bring a travel kit to keep in your hand luggage which includes: a thermometer, Tylenol (for fever), Ibuprofen (for pain), band aids and any prescription medication. Even if you’re taking a road trip keep these items handy so you don’t have to unpack the entire vehicle just to find some medication packed at the bottom of a suitcase.
8. Learn how to avoid motion sickness
Motion sickness is unpredictable and seems to come on at the worst possible moments. The best ways to avoid motion sickness in kids are:
- Look straight ahead outside the car, through the front windshield instead of through the side windows.
- Focus on a distant fixed point, such as the horizon.
- Get fresh air.
- Distract children by talking or singing songs.
- Have your child close their eyes and listen to relaxing music.
- Encourage your child to take a nap.
- Break up your journey by making stops to get some fresh air, drink water or take a walk.
- Do not read while riding in the car.
- Put down electronic devices
- Avoid heavy meals and greasy, rich, spicy foods.
For more details about how to avoid motion sickness in kids read this post. We discuss what causes motion sickness, natural treatments or medicines for motion sickness, how to recognise the signs and be prepared to deal with it. This will help your family to stay healthy while traveling with children.
9. Boost your immune system to stay healthy while traveling with children
The best way to avoid illness while traveling is to have a strong and healthy immune system to fight germs and infection. Your immune system is a process of checks and balances that helps fight and protect the body from disease and illness. It’s easier than you think to naturally boost your child’s immune system.
Five ways to help boost immunity: stay hydrated, eat nutritious food, take vitamins and supplements, be physically active and get enough sleep.
Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking water helps you rid your body of toxins, and is a good way to prevent sickness when traveling. Staying hydrated helps all the body’s defenses function properly. It is especially important to drink water if you’re flying, as flights can dehydrate you. Carry a reusable water bottle so your family can stay hydrated while you travel. Our kids love the Thermos Funtainer for Kids, which is a 12 oz container available in MANY different colors and character designs. It is an insulated 12 hour cold drink stainless steel thermos, and the BEST part… it does not sweat when filled with ice! When flying we refill the water bottles once we have navigated airport security with kids.
When your family travels overseas you may need to drink only from sealed bottles or cans which have been sufficiently filtered. Keep bottle water by the sink for brushing your teeth. The main reason travelers get sick overseas is from drinking water with local bacteria that their body is not used to. Other countries don’t have “bad” water, it’s just that our bodies react differently to it.
Eat nutritious food
Foods can help boost the immune system.Try to encourage your child to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and lean protein. Also, include foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like eggs, salmon and avocados. Stick closely to your child’s normal, healthy diet. This gives kids nutrients to help fight infection, and it can also help prevent diarrhea or constipation, which children are prone to when traveling. Consider bringing your kids’ favorite healthy foods on road trips or airplanes instead of buying fast food or snacks. For ideas about healthy road trip snacks read our post about simplifying a road trip with kids.
Take vitamins and supplements
Vitamins B6, C and E are all known for their immune-boosting properties. Supplements would not be necessary if your child is getting all of these vitamins from a well-balanced diet. Some foods rich in these vitamins include eggs, bell peppers, spinach and almonds. If you are concerned about your child’s vitamin intake then talk to your pediatrician before buying any supplements.
Consider taking a room temperature-stable probiotic while traveling to help keep the digestive issues at bay. This is especially helpful when traveling overseas to countries where this could be an issue. Consuming probiotics can help you stay regular even when the rest of your schedule is way off. While traveling, your body will likely be exposed to unfamiliar germs and bacteria, and probiotics also help boost your immune system.
To be sure everyone remembers to take their vitamins and supplements while traveling, use a travel-sized pill case marked with the days of the week.
Be physically active
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living, and will help your family to stay healthy while traveling with children. Exercise can help maintain a healthy immune system. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.
Plan outdoor activities on the first few days after you arrive at your destination. Being physically active, along with sunshine and fresh air, will help your child overcome jet lag and adjust their body clock when traveling through time zones.
Maintain good sleep habits
Sleep is important for protecting the immune system and generally ensuring that you and your child function at your optimum. If your child gets enough sleep, it will help their body fight off sickness and help succeed at the tips mentioned above. Sticking to your child’s normal bedtime, naptime and routines will help them to sleep better. Make sure to bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to help your child to relax and rest, so they can fall asleep in a strange place.
If you are traveling internationally or across time zones read our post with more advice about surviving jet lag with your baby or toddler.
10. Pace yourself to stay healthy while traveling with children
Most children do not have the patience or stamina for fast-paced, non-stop travel. When you travel with children expect to move at a slower pace. It’s important to plan your vacation with time for you and your children to rest and relax. Pace yourself, don’t try to see the entire city all in one day! Try to alternate a busy sight-seeing day followed by a more low key rest day.
When taking a road trip be realistic about the amount of time your children will stay content in the car. Being strapped in a car seat gets hot and uncomfortable. Plan time in your journey to stop and let kids stretch their muscles, run around, jump, or blow bubbles. We try to break up long journeys with an overnight stay in a hotel where the kids are excited to go swimming in the pool. This is an incentive everyone looks forward to when they are fed up of traveling. Happy kids are less stressed which is better for everyone!
11. Protect your family from bug bites
Bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and some flies, can spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme disease, all of which can have severe and lasting consequences.
To prevent bug bites wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Use insect repellent spray on any exposed areas.
My children and I are super sensitive to mosquito bites, which will make us itch for 3 days straight. Every time we go outside during the summer we use Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent Spray which never feels oily or greasy, and has a pleasant scent.
12. Apply sunscreen to protect against the sun
Be sure to apply sunscreen on children’s exposed skin when traveling, even when you’re not at the beach. Avoid extended periods in direct sun during the middle of the day when they’re more likely to burn. Seek out shade when possible and wear a sunhat. Our kids love to wear a rashguard (with UPF 50+ sun protection) when playing on the beach, in the ocean or at the pool. Dealing with sunburn on vacation is not fun for you or your child, take precautions to protect your little one against the sun.
The best way to ensure a memorable and easy-going trip for everyone is to stay healthy. Whatever strategies you use to avoid harmful bacteria, try to keep germs and illness in perspective. It’s common for healthy children to get several colds a year. Most of the time infections come from the people we love, and have close contact with; not from strangers on a road trip.
As you plan your next vacation, choose to do a staycation, or even just travel around the town where you live then be aware and take precautions. Do the best you can to ensure your family will stay healthy while traveling with children.
And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.
Until next time,
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