Like clockwork, the night before we are heading out of town I hear the, “Mom, I have a sore throat.” Given that I have four kids, aka mini petri dishes, it’s not uncommon for one of them to be sick, or brewing some sickness at all times. Over the years, we’ve discovered that being prepared and having a plan of action saves both time and worry while traveling with kids.
Be thoughtful about where you choose to travel with kids
Be thoughtful about where you chose to travel. Have a realistic understanding of your family’s medical needs. Keep in mind that the more secluded a destination, the higher the likelihood that medical care will be difficult to reach. Some remote rural destinations don’t have anything more than simple clinic. In that case, you’d have to be flown out for any major issues — worrisome for infants or grand-parents are more likely to require speedy care. Language can also be a problem. Medical facilities in or around large urban destinations are more likely to have English-speaking staff, but fluency often decreases with distance in many countries.
Understand drinking water safety ahead of time
You have to manage meals and in-room practices (like brushing teeth) carefully with traveling in an area where the local tap water is not safe for drinking. With school-age children where you can explain the rules, it’s not as much of an issue; however, traveling with babies and toddlers in an area like this requires more diligence. I always reference the CDC web site which provides detailed information on most destinations along with great general health tips on traveling with children.
Packing tips and list
The most important item I pack is my well-stocked medical kit. I’ve learned this the hard way! Most trips I don’t need it, but when I do, it’s normally at some inconvenient time like in the middle of the night when someone spikes a fever. When you have basic supplies, not only can you treat the most common ailments, but you also don’t have to waste you precious vacation time tracking down medicine. When abroad, the brands you know and trust might not be available; plus, the ingredients can be listed in a different language making it difficult to find what you need. We usually pack: Motrin, Tylenol, Benedryl, Dramamine, Swimmer Ear drops, Adult Sudafed, Band-Aids, Neosporin and a thermometer. When traveling internationally I add a general antibiotic prescribed by my pediatrician, Dent Temp (temporary dental glue), anti-diarrhea and re-hydration solution (this way I have the accurate dosing), DEET bug repellant and sunscreen.
What to do if you need medical care on the road
Even with the best preparation, you still might need medical care. When this happens, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Don’t Wait: If you sense that an injury or illness is getting more serious, address it sooner than later. Proactive care reduces the risk of spreading the sickness and most importantly, trips to the ER. This is especially important before holidays or on Fridays, heading into a weekend.
Find a Local Doctor: Whether I’m traveling within the US or abroad, I would rather use local doctors over clinics or hospitals. Most hotels will suggest or call in a doctor, however, keep in mind that in countries where bribing is common, you may want to call your local embassy or consulate and get the list of recommended doctors. Additionally, review the hospital choices ahead of time to select better rated options. This hospital information is available in most guidebooks.
Verify Medicine: If you are not dealing with a reputable pharmacy, purchase sealed containers of medicine, even if you only need a small portion. If possible, check the name of medicine with your pediatrician. A few years ago when my three-year old needed medicine, a local doctor came to our hotel room with a suitcase of lose pills – unnerving, right? Thinking about your family getting sick or hurt is not pleasant. This is a small part of our preparation, however, it allows me to relax knowing I have some first steps prepared should we need it.