Your holidays should be the happiest time of the year. However, when you travel with children, things can’t always go according to plan. Luckily, many common health problems can be avoided. Learn all you need to know to keep your child healthy and happy abroad, so nothing will spoil the fun for you and your family.
Although often harmless, insect stings and bites can be annoying on holiday.
Most of the time when you get bitten, the culprit will be the common mosquito. In some parts of the world, mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases such as malaria or dengue fever. Make sure you know whether you and your children need malaria tablets or vaccinations before you travel. Mosquitoes occur in many parts of the world and they tend to be particularly bothersome if you are staying near a river or the sea.
Here’s what you can do to keep the little blighters at bay:
- take an insect repellent - there are sprays and plug-ins available to use on your body and in your accommodation
- take an over the counter hydrocortisone cream to use if you get bitten
- take antihistamine cream or tablets with you to relieve itching and swelling
- wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers
- stay in accommodation with nets attached to the windows
If you are going to a destination where mosquitoes are very common, it might also be a good idea to take bed nets.
Make sure your beach holiday remains memorable for the right reasons and protect your family against the sun. The sun may be far more aggressive at your holiday destination, so you need to be more careful than you might be at home. As a general rule of thumb, the sun gets more aggressive the nearer you are to the equator or the higher up you get.
No doubt you’re already used to protecting your children from the English sun, and the same rules go on holiday. Follow these simple tips and stay safe:
- take sun hats and shades for you and your children
- avoid spending long periods of time in direct sunlight, especially around midday
- if you travel by car, take screens for the windows
The most important step in protecting you and your family from sunburn is to use sunscreen.
Make sure you:
- choose a waterproof brand
- use a children’s sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 50+ for your kids
- re-apply the cream regularly, especially after swimming
Travelling is a great experience for your children and they will most likely have a fantastic time. However, the change in their environment, diet and routine often causes digestive problems such as diarrhoea.
If your child develops diarrhoea:
- encourage him or her to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- continue with their normal diet
- avoid fruit juices, smoothies and soft drinks
- visit a doctor if your child is under 6 months or if they don’t get better
You can take oral rehydration sachets from the chemist’s with you - they contain essential salts and sugar to help your child (or you) recover quickly. Always read the label to check that the supplement is suitable for children.
Travel sickness in children
If your child suffers from travel sickness, you have probably already worked out your own way of dealing with the little “emergencies” during your trip. Travel sickness is quite common in children over the age of two and it usually gets better as the children grow older. It happens - to children and adults - when a visual stimulus contradicts your sense of movement. In other words: Your body can tell that it is moving, but your eyes may be focussed on a fixed point which is not. As your brain tries to resolve this conflict, you may feel or be sick.
What you can do:
- allow plenty of time when you travel - just in case
- begin your journey at night time, so your child can sleep through most of it
- stay calm if you can and try not to get stressed - this will help you and your child
Things to take with you:
- plenty of wipes and towels
- a change of clothing
- water to keep your child hydrated after they have been sick
- plastic bags (to keep dirty clothing in)
- anti-sickness medication for children (you can buy this over the counter)
Holidays can be a terrible time for your children to fall ill - sometimes this is unavoidable, but the best you can do is be prepared.
If your child does get ill, you will be glad if you have:
- a thermometer
- a fever and pain killer medication for children, such as Calpol or Nurofen
Keeping a good hygiene routine during your holidays will help reduce the risk of infection. Encourage your child to wash hands regularly, especially before meals. It helps if you have antibacterial wipes at hand, for situations where you can’t wash your hands.
Finally, make sure you all get plenty of rest and sleep to keep you fit and healthy during your break.
Top Tips For Travelling With Young Children
Planning for your holiday can be a real fuss when you’ve got young kids to manage. Try breaking your itinerary down into easy, bite-size chunks so that you can address each bit depending on the age of your baby or child. Have a think about:
1. Where you’re going: city breaks are great when you’re on your own or with friends, but why not think about going somewhere where the little ones can run around and let off some steam?
2. How you’re getting there: kids will soon get bored on long drives or flights so think about some things to bring to keep them occupied, and don’t forget those travel sickness pills and wristbands!
3. Childcare: are you going somewhere where you’ll have access to a babysitter or that has a kids club so that you can get away for an evening or two?
4. What you’ll be doing while you’re out there: it’s a good idea to have a long list of family-friendly activities to do just in case they get tired of the pool on the second day!
5. Mealtimes: fussy eaters? Think about what’s available where you’re going. Will you be eating out lots or are you staying somewhere that’s self-catered?
6. What you can do! Remember, it’s not just their holiday – try to look out for some grown up entertainment for the holiday like nice restaurants, cinema trips or bars close by so that you don’t miss out on the fun!
7. Rainy day kits: hopefully you won’t need these, but this is also a great back-up for long trips to keep the little ones entertained. Pack some goodie bags with crayons, stickers, colouring books and some treats so that they don’t get restless. There are all sorts of interactive apps that you can download now onto your phone or tablet to use without internet access. Why not download some games and a few films for a long flight?
8. Are they crawling yet? It’s hard to totally safe-proof your holiday house or hotel, but you can get inventive! Plasters make fantastic plug-socket covers for any inquisitive toddlers, and hair bobbles are great for keeping door handles to cupboards shut if you’ve got medicines or precious things to keep safe and the doors don’t lock!
9. Is your little one still feeding? Check out our page on travelling while breastfeeding and bottle feeding for more info on how to be safe and comfortable while you feed away from home.
If you are travelling to a country where travel vaccinations are recommended, make sure you make an appointment for a travel health consultation at least eight weeks before you travel.