When your family travels, being away from your household's usual eating and sleeping routines means it's more likely that someone might get sick. It can take time to adjust to the food, water, and air in a new environment. And kids can be especially vulnerable to travel-related problems such as motion sickness, diarrhea, and infections.
But some early planning and smart packing can help you keep the trip healthy for everybody. Here are some things to keep in mind when your family prepares to travel.
If you're heading overseas, start preparing well in advance. For instance, it's important to find out what vaccinations your kids (and even you) might need because:
Most immunizations should be given at least 1 month before travel, so try to schedule a doctor's visit 4-6 weeks before your trip. Even if you're leaving in less than 4 weeks, you should still make an appointment, as kids might still benefit from shots or medications.
Depending on your travel plans, your doctor may recommend that in addition to routine immunizations, you and/or your child be vaccinated against:
Although all kids get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12-15 months of age, any who will travel outside the United States before that should get the vaccine as early as 6 months of age.
Also, kids of any age can get malaria so if you're traveling to a country with a malaria risk, talk to your doctor about antimalarial drugs. The doctor will decide the best preventative medication based on your destination and your child's health status.
Ask your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a list of recommended or required vaccinations (the site includes a section devoted to travelers' health that you can search by destination), and be sure to take your child's immunization records with you if you're traveling internationally.
When you fly across time zones, it can take time for your internal body clock to catch up with the local time. For example, if your regular bedtime is 9 p.m. and you travel from New York to California, where the time is 3 hours earlier, you may be ready for bed when it is 6 p.m. in California because you've already been up for the usual amount of time and your body is ready to rest. Chances are you'll probably not go to sleep until the local time is 9 p.m., and then you'll be extra tired because your body has been awake for longer than usual.
In addition to tiredness, jet lag can also cause an upset stomach and even insomnia. Here are some tips for dealing with jet lag:
It's common for kids to experience ear discomfort during a plane's takeoff and descent caused by pressure in the middle ear as it tries to keep up with the rapidly changing air pressure. Encourage kids to swallow, yawn, or, if they're old enough, chew gum. It may help infants to nurse or suck on a bottle.
All of these things can help kids' ears adjust. You may also want to give your child a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, 30-60 minutes before takeoff or, if it's a long flight, before landing.
Travel (or motion) sickness is caused by a conflict between the eye and ear: The inner ears detect movement, but the eyes — focused within a car or other vehicle — do not. These mixed signals coming into the brain can cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting, paleness, and cold sweats.
Motion sickness often occurs on ships and boats, but it can also affect kids when they travel in planes, buses, and cars. Some ways to help combat travel sickness:
Diarrhea and other stomach distress, which can be common during travel, are often caused by bacteria or other germs entering the digestive tract, usually from contaminated food or water. Diarrhea is especially a problem for young kids and infants, who can become dehydrated more quickly than adults.
Water in many developing countries isn't treated in the same way as water supplies in developed nations and may contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Take precautions to ensure the water is safe:
Other ways to prevent diarrhea and GI distress:
When you pack, include any medications and other medical supplies you and your family use regularly because they may be hard to find at your destination. Don't forget inhalers, allergy medication, and insulin, if needed.
Other items you might want to pack:
Do some research before your trip to find the hospital or medical care facility closest to your destination, particularly if your child has a chronic health condition. If you're traveling overseas, try to find one where English is spoken.
It's also wise to carry a written copy of your child's medical history. Having this available can help health care workers make appropriate decisions about how to treat your child and you won't have to worry about forgetting important information at a time when you're likely to be upset.
A medical history should include:
While you're away, it's important to take the same health and safety precautions as you do at home. These include:
Before you leave, consider asking your doctor for other information about how to protect your family from illness and injury during travel. Doing a little planning in advance can help ensure that when the time comes, all you'll have left to do is relax and enjoy your vacation!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2012
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. Call: (800) CDC-INFO|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|CDC Travelers' Health Look up vaccination requirements for travel destinations, get updates on international outbreaks, and more, searachable by country.|
|World Health Organization (WHO) WHO, the United Nations' specialized agency, works to give people worldwide the highest possible level of health - physically, mentally, and socially.|
|Studying Abroad Do you dream of traveling to cool places, meeting interesting people, and maybe picking up a language or two? Learn about the benefits of study abroad programs.|
|Traveling and Asthma Packing your bag for a trip? If you have asthma, you'll want to be prepared so breathing trouble doesn't spoil your fun. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Traveling and Asthma If you have asthma, travel can seem less fun because there's always the worry that something unexpected may cause a flare-up. Here's how to avoid problems so you can concentrate on the fun.|
|Road Trip Fun Are you ready for a road trip? Find out how to pass the time in this article for kids.|
|Road Trip Boredom Busters Road trips can be fun and educational with just a little planning and preparation. Here are some ideas to get your family revved up for a trip long on smiles and short on frustration.|
|Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.|
|Going Away to Camp Are you ready for sleepaway camp? Learn more about it in this article for kids.|
|Kids Talk About: Summer Vacations We asked kids to tell us about their favorite trips. See what they had to say!|
|Active Vacations If an active family vacation sounds appealing, find out how to plan a trip that will be fun without being exhausting, especially for young travelers.|
|Flying and Your Child's Ears That weird ear-popping sensation is a normal part of air travel. Here's how to help equalize the air pressure in your child's ears and eliminate, or at least decrease, ear pain.|
|Your Tips for Surviving Summer Break We surveyed readers on what they'd be doing over the summer. Here's what they told us - and their tips for beating the summer blahs.|
|What's Motion Sickness? Have you ever had motion sickness? Find out how to handle it in this article for kids.|
|Travel Tips It's always important to take care of your health, particularly when you're traveling. Our article will give you tips for keeping your travel experience as healthy as possible.|
|Traveling and Asthma With some careful preparation, kids with asthma should be able to enjoy all the benefits of a trip away from home.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.