Wouldn't it be great if allergies would take a vacation? Unfortunately they don't but often as parents we have to pack them along and take them on vacation along with our kids on our family vacations. Many parents out there are more than familiar with allergies and how they create havoc with our kids. For discussion sake, an allergy is a hypersensivity to certain substances like foods, pollens, medication etc. Our body's immune system kicks into full attack mode trying to fight off the problem substance. Symptoms can be as mild as a runny nose or red eyes or as serious as an asthma attack. Anaphylaxsis is an acute medical situation that can result in a person's death if not treated with immediate emergency medical care.
In recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of kids and adults that suffer from severe allergies. More and more pediatricians are seeing children suffering from allergies to foods like peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts, wheat and soy products. Asthma cases are on the rise too. Some allergy sufferers are so very sensitive that they even have to be cautious of cross contamination. One example of this was the recent story of the Canadian teen that died. Here she kissed her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich. There are many theories why this is happening. Doctors and researchers say perhaps our environments are too clean, perhaps it's the over-use of antibiotics, perhaps it's genetic - right now no one can say for sure. As parents, all we can do is work to protect our children should they suffer from any of these issues. It's difficult enough to control our own home environments. So imagine how hard it is for families like these to plan their vacations. Family vacations are suppose to be fun and carefree. When you're the parent of an allergic child, vacations take a bit more planning.
My daughter Vanessa suffers from asthma. We were always vigilant for triggers that would send her into an attack like exercise, temperature changes and seasonal irritants. As a child grows and starts to gain more responsibility, parents have to change their tactics in order to stay one step ahead. Our first line of defense was our doctors. Make sure you have good docs that will help you to understand the diagnosis, treatment and care of your child with allergies. Almost as important as having a good team of doctors is to make sure your child is a team player. Teach your child from as early as possible to be an active participant in their own health and wellness. Take the time to stop and explain to your child why things may be different for them. Allow your child to share their frustrations. Keeping the lines of communication open are important to having your child accept any challenges they may face. As you start planning for your family vacation, keep your medical team in the loop. Ask questions and get their advice. If your child is old enough, let them take part in planning for their vacation health needs whether it be a trip to the pharmacy for extra medication or packing travel snacks. Communication and cooperation are key.
Speaking of communication, be sure to tell your travel agent that you have family members with allergy issues. Our agents at Vacationkids can also help with suggestions and advice that can make your trip easier. If your child is highly allergic, it may be best to stay in a resort that has it's own kitchen facilities so that there are no chances of cross contaminiation. Our staff can also put you in contact with food and beverage managers that can answer your specific questions about a particular menu. It may be important for you to connect with medical personal in your vacation destination to put your mind at ease before your arrival.
Over the years traveling with my allergic, asthmatic daughter, our family created a 10 point check list. These were all the things we needed to remember to keep her safe and sound. We hope they will help your family enjoy a fun filled allergy free vacation too...
1. TRAVEL INSURANCE -Don't leave home without it! Read the fine print to be sure that it covers your family for pre-existing medical conditions like allergies and asthma.
2. PACK YOUR PEDIATRICIAN'S PHONE NUMBER - Write down important, direct dial medical phone numbers and keep this paper with your travel documents in your carry on bag. If you're traveling outside of the United States, learn how to make international calls. For instructions on how to dial international phone numbers, check out country calling codes
Don't rely on your cell phone unless you've checked with your cell phone provider and you know that you have international calling service.
3. KNOW HOW TO MAKE AN EMERGENCY PHONE CALL - In the U.S. we dial 911 for an ambulance but different countries have different emergency calling procedures. Most GSM cell phones will use or re-direct the emergency number 112. Be sure you've checked out the Emergency call number
4. A NOTE FROM YOUR DOCTOR - Carry a letter from your doctor explaining your child's medical condition and the generic names of any medications your child may be using. If necessary for convenience sake, have this letter translated into a foreign language...I've often found school language teachers very helpful whenever I've needed documents translated. Have extra copies of this letter on hand if your child plans to participate in kids club or other separate activities where the staff needs to know this important information.
5. MEDICATIONS -
* Be sure all prescription medications are labeled directly by your pharmacy and that the name on the package matches the name on your child's airline ticket.
* Pack ALL medications in your carry-on bags - never put them in checked luggage that could be lost.
* If your child is required to use Epinephrine injections such as an EpiPen or Asthma inhalers, try to bring at least two and pack each in separate carry on bags if at all possible.
* Pack chewable antihistimines for flights. For the latest information about packing liquids and other medications visit The Transportation Security Administration.
*Bring extra prescriptions from your doctor just in case you need more medication while away from home.
6. INSULATED LUNCH BAG - This can be used for allergy free safe snacks as well as a cool place to keep medications if your out and about sight seeing or enjoying the beach.
7. SANITIZER WIPES -To clean surfaces from any allergic substances if your child is subject to contact allergies.
8. TOILETRIES -Have appropriate hand washing supplies for your journey and remember, they never print ingredients on tiny hotel shampoo bottles.
9. CELL PHONES -These often work well for older kids that need a bit of their own space. This way they can communication with you should there be an emergency. Just check your overseas coverage with your cell provider
10. WATCH WITH AN ALARM -When you're on vacation and off of a daily routine, this can be a helpful way to remember to take medications at their appropriate times.