It’s that time of year again when we’re all getting ready to pack our bags and go on holiday. You’re now probably going through all your bookings, making plans for things to do when you get to your destination, and making a list of places to visit that are child-friendly. Here are a few tips to help you keep your child healthy during your travels, so that you can enjoy your vacation with hopefully few (or preferably no) health concerns.
If you’re anything like me, you start by making lists of things to buy, things to take, things to pack in your hand luggage, and so on. One of the things easily forgotten when preparing for your trip is a medical kit. Here’s what I like to pack in mine:
Antibiotic cream (such as fucidin or bactroban)
Antihistamine cream (fenistil gel)
Anti fever medicines (panadol and nurofen)
Oral rehydration solution sachets (Pedialyte)
All of these items can be found at any pharmacy in Dubai. Of course, if your child has a specific condition such as asthma or eczema, you’ll need to pack their inhalers and creams as well. In addition to this, if your child has a chronic condition, it’s helpful to find out beforehand where the closest hospitals or emergency rooms are, just in case. Some of my patients have allergies that require them to carry an adrenaline pen on their person at all times. If this applies to you, then please make sure your prescription is up to date and get a letter from your pediatrician clarifying this, so that you don’t face any problems at the airport.
On the way there
What’s worse than starting your holiday with a virus caught during your journey there? Avoiding other people’s bugs in the airport or on the plane is difficult, but using hand sanitizer regularly can definitely help, and avoiding spending time in the presence of someone who is obviously unwell (when possible) is also helpful. When changing nappies or taking your children to the toilet on the plane, use your own changing mat and the seat covers provided. I always keep a packet of antiseptic wipes handy to do a quick clean where needed.
This, of course, goes without saying, but like other things, this normal task can be forgotten in the chaos and lack of routine of a holiday. Remind your children to wash their hands regularly and/or use hand sanitizer gel, especially before meals. Research has shown that hand hygiene is one of the major factors in preventing the spread of infection.
Are you planning any car journeys at the other end? If so, then you need to think of your need for car seats. Of course, you can take your own, or hire one out at your destination. Make sure you know the correct size for your child and that it’s strapped in correctly, as different brands can work differently.
Somehow, the words “healthy diet” and “vacation” don’t often belong together, especially where our children are concerned. On holiday, we rely more on fast food on the go or restaurant menus and are often preparing far less food for ourselves. Focus on giving your children healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, pretzels and crackers. If you pack some of these every day, you’ll be less tempted to make do with an unhealthy alternative and will provide them with a slightly more balanced diet. Some people prefer to give their children multivitamins during their vacations, and you can do that by all means, but there’s no real need to as long as they’re eating relatively healthy food.
Specific health hazards
Find out about any health hazards specific to the area you’re going to and plan accordingly. Malaria is an example, for which children can be given prophylaxis. This is prescribed by your pediatrician and is specific to a child’s age and weight. Of course, mosquito-bite prevention with clothing, bed nets and insect repellants remains the most effective form of protection.
Typhoid is another example of a specific health hazard, for which a vaccination can be taken.
Traveller’s diarrhea is common, and is usually caught from contaminated water. If you’re travelling to an area where this is a risk, drink bottled water and try and avoid sources of food that may increase your risk of catching this. If your children get a tummy bug, you can use an oral rehydration solution, such as pedialyte, to help restore their mineral balance.
My family and I are going to Austria this summer, to an area where tick-borne-disease is prevalent, so I’m armed with protective clothing and tweezers for any ticks that may sneak past their clothes.
There are several other health hazards you may come across in you research. An excellent website to help you plan is www.mdtravelhealth.com.
Last but not least, it’s worth remembering that Dubai is an extremely safe environment with regards to personal safety and stranger danger. Living here can make us drop our guard where this issue is concerned. Please remember this during your travels to further avoid unnecessary risks.
I hope you all have fun, fantastic and healthy holidays this summer!
Dr Rania Ayat Hawayek is a Specialist Pediatrician working at Infinity Clinic. She looks after children of all ages, focusing mainly on early feeding issues and reflux as well as allergy-related conditions such as eczema and asthma. Originally from Lebanon, Dr Rania grew up in Dubai and moved back here after spending several years in London where she studied and trained. She’s a mama of 2, Victoria who is 4 years old and 2 year old Richard. You can contact her on email@example.com.