Travelling with your children can be challenging, especially if they are below the age of five. We usually think that we are prepared for all our children’s needs and wants, but have you ever asked yourself if you are being vigilant enough to ensure their safety and health while on the road?
According to Dr Lee Soon Han, head of the accident and emergency department at Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), the most common travel-related injuries or illnesses among children are:
- Motor vehicle accidents.
- Falls leading to cuts, bruises, or open wounds.
- Febrile or respiratory illness due to viruses.
- Water-related injuries such as drowning.
- Diarrhoea and vomiting due to food poisoning.
“Use booster or car seats and seatbelts correctly according to the child’s age, height, and weight. Also, make sure to wear water safety devices during swimming and always have close adult supervision.
“Always consume clean water and proper food, while maintaining milk bottle hygiene,” advised Dr Lee.
First Aid Necessities And Knowledge
Every parent should prioritise first aid kit essentials when they travel with children.
“The kit should have paracetamol for fever or pain, oral rehydration solution (ORS), cough and cold medications such as antihistamines, and inhalers for children with asthma.
“There should also be basic items for wound care, such as, gloves, gauze, antiseptic wipes, band aids and adhesive tape, as well as a thermometer,” said Dr Lee.
In addition, it also helps if parents are aware of the dos and don’ts if their child suffers from motion sickness or feels discomfort due to the difference in pressure while in transit.
Tips for motion sickness include:
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid heavy meals, instead, consider eating and drinking in small amounts regularly.
- Avoid reading or using any screen devices during the ride.
- Encourage sleep during the ride or flight.
Pressure in the ear can be equalised by swallowing or chewing
Babies and young children should be encouraged to nurse or suck on a bottle, and older children can have snacks or chewing gum. Bring along familiar toys the child is fond of for comfort.
As for children with chronic heart or lung disease, travelling to destinations with different climates or altitudes may be risky.
“Parents should consult their doctors before travelling. Do dress appropriately, with more layers at lower climate destinations, while for hotter locations, sunscreen should be applied regularly to avoid sunburn,” advised Dr Lee.
Be Wary Of What Your Kids Consume
With a multitude of delicacies waiting to be tried while on holiday, it is best to always remember, what you consume may not agree to a child’s digestive system.
Hence, diarrhoea and vomiting are among the most common illnesses that SMC consultant emergency physician Dr Nur Elayni Borhan sees in the emergency department.
“Please ensure your child is taught to follow safe food and water precautions. Frequently wash hands to prevent foodborne and waterborne illnesses, breastfeed your infants as it’s the best way to reduce risk, as well as making sure vaccinations are up-to-date as there is generally a higher risk for most vaccine-preventable diseases when travelling,” urged Dr Elayni.
Most importantly, children should avoid swimming in any fresh, non-chlorinated bodies of water, such as rivers, ponds, or lakes, as they may be contaminated with diseases that can be transmitted to the child if the water is ingested.
“As for treatment for diarrhoea, it is best to consume plenty of fluids. ORS may be used to prevent dehydration, especially if the child is also vomiting. If your child appears to be dehydrated, has a fever, or bloody stools, seek medical attention immediately,” said Dr Elayni.
Staying Alert On Allergies
For children with food allergies, planning ahead is the key to making your trip safe and enjoyable. Always stay alert, take every necessary precaution, and carry all essential medications.
Bring a medical kit with your child’s medication, including their epinephrine pen. Do this no matter how near or short the trip is.
Pack safe snacks and meals in case there are no safe restaurants for your child.
If you are going to a non-English speaking country, get information about your allergy translated. You can give this written information to those who prepare your food to help them understand your child’s needs.
If your child has a history of severe allergies, take note of the allergy policies on the airline and at the hotels. Every airline or hotel is different, and they need advance notice to make accommodations.
Research restaurants or grocery stores which would carry products safe for your child.
Enjoy Holidaying With A Peaceful Mind
“I would also advise to bring some topical medication like antiseptic cream, mentholated or medicated topical ointment — anything you’re used to, from home.
“You know your own children, so bring the things that you know would benefit them. Try to avoid bringing things that are new to them,” said Dr Elayni.
“Prior to departure, identify all important health care facilities at the destination and get advice on available local medical services from hotels or tour company representatives.
“Most of all, all child travellers should be included in any travel insurance policies bought for the trip, which should include medical repatriation if necessary,” said Dr Lee.