Anytime and anywhere your kids come into contact with others there is an increased risk for infections and illness. We hear all these scary news stories about the "bug du jour" that is making everyone sick. We all know airplanes, cruise ships and hotel rooms are petri dishes for germs - just like the school bus, classroom or local shopping mall.
Parents especially worry how to keep their kids from getting sick when on a family vacation. Most families get very little time to spend on vacation. Speaking of spending, vacations cost real money. Of course there is also the worry and hassle of finding proper medical care and treatment far from home. Vacations are suppose to be an escape from everyday worries and a time for fun.
Prior to my years as a travel agent, I was a pediatric nurse. I've been taught how to deal with some really nasty germs and what precautions are necessary. My hope is to share a few ideas to help parents make sense of all the news while keeping their kids happy, safe and healthy.
1. Check In with Your Doc- Before you check into your flight, cruise or hotel, the most important person you should "check in" with is your Pediatrician. This is especially true if your child has any chronic conditions like asthma. It is also important for young children who are not yet fully immunized. Ask your doctor's advice for any potential travel issues and make sure you have any prescription meds that your child will need for your travels.
2. Keep an eye on the CDC- The Center for Disease Control (CDC for short) is a federal agency located in Atlanta, GA. It's main task is to keep American's healthy. Its job is to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks, maintain statistics and protocols for disease prevention strategies. Back when I was a nurse, many of the protocols of care we followed in the hospital were implemented by the CDC. As a travel agent, I STILL keep an eye on the CDC. Their website has a huge section specifically devoted to helping travelers stay healthy and avoid risks. There is a wealth of information here for parents to know.
3. Wash Your Hands PROPERLY - Sure you've heard this a million times but to avoid getting sick, a quick rinse won't cut it. Parents need to know proper handwashing rules, be good role models and teach your children these same techniques. Also when traveling and using public restrooms, get a couple of paper towels first and use them on any surfaces that are not hands-free like faucets and doorknobs. Be sure to carry hand sanitizer as well for situations where you cannot wash your hands with soap and water.
4. Mind your Hygiene Manners - Parents need to be mindful of good manners when coughing & sneezing. In turn they can teach and pass along these good habits to their children. Of course, these rules of ettiquette become even more important when traveling in congested areas like airports, theme parks, hotels and cruise ships. It might be next to impossible but do try to keep the hands of little ones away from their mouths and eyes especially after handling railings and doorknobs.
5. Use Antibacterial Wipes - These are great for airplane tray tables, public restaurant tables, doorknobs or hotel TV remotes - any suspicous places where you think germs may be lurking. If we parents can keep curious hands away from little mouths we can at least do our best to keep the areas around our kids as clean as possible.
6. Avoid Potential Risks - When there is a potential threat to the health of Americans, especially those traveling overseas, the CDC works with the State Department to post alerts and warnings telling travelers to avoid certain locations. Right now Ebola is a top story on the news but there are no travel warnings or restrictions except for the areas on Africa now affected.
7. Take Out Travel Insurance - This type of peace of mind normally costs 7-10% of the total cost of your vacation but is invaluable to have when you need it. Typical medical insurance normally doesn't cover travelers outside of the US. If you're child needs an emergency room visit for a broken arm while on vacation in the Caribbean you'd better hope you have enough on your credit card to cover the bill or you may not be allowed to leave.
No one has a crystal ball. If your child gets an earache the night before your trip and your doctor says you cannot fly, can you afford to loose the entire cost of your vacation? What if there is a hurricane? This is why having "Cancel for any reason" insurance gives you peace of mind.
8. Don't share Food, Drinks, Utensils & Towels - This may be common family practice at home but when traveling, your child's immune system will be on the defensive. Why increase the risk of becoming sick. Should one member of the family succumb to illness this is the best way to insure everyone is miserable.
9. Stay Hydrated - The basic rule of thumb is 8 - 10 ounces of water per day for adults. For kids this varies according to their age. Factors like heat and exercise will also increase a body's demand for additional water. If you are flying, the air inside of an airplane can be very drying. This can lead to cracks in mucus membranes like the lips and nose which increase your risk of getting sick. Passengers should drink an additional 8 oz. of water per hour of flight.
10. Stay Away From Bugs - Bugs can equal germs and carry some really nasty diseases. Be informed as to which creepy crawlies you may encounter on your journey and arm yourself with knowledge as to how you and the kids can avoid them.
11. Be Sun Smart - Everyone needs to practice sun safety. That said, the sun protection you practice at home may not be sufficient when vacationing in a tropical destination. Parents need to recognize that children are far more vulnerable and need extra protection. In addition, parents need to know how to properly care for any sunburn.
12. Maintain Healthy Habits - Family vacations are a time for fun and splurging. Just do your best to maintain balance. If jetlag is an issue with your vacation destination, schedule enjoy time for rest that first day. Take your vitamins, eat healthy and don't over-do it with any adventure sports.