School holidays are here and many families are planning a trip away. A change of scene can be a great way to re-energize and connect as a family. But anyone who has travelled with kids will also know that it is not without it’s challenges! Here’s some tips for parents to help avoid illness and injury in children when travelling. Because the last thing you need on holidays is a trip to the doctor!
Getting there safely
If you are travelling a long distance by plane you may have considered using medication to sedate your child for the trip. It’s important to know that over the counter medicines such as anti-histamines (e.g. Phenergan) are not recommended for travel sedation. These medicines can have dangerous side effects, including effects on breathing and heart rate. In around 15 per cent of children they can also have an opposite effect and cause a child to become hyperactive. Melatonin can be helpful and effective for some children when travelling long distances and battling jet lag. This medication requires a prescription from a doctor, so if you think melatonin might be helpful for your child, chat about this with your GP before your fly.
Holiday periods are peak times for crashes on our roads. If you are travelling by car these holidays remember to have your child safely restrained in appropriate car seat for their age and size every time you travel. You can read more about choosing the safest car seat for your child here. If you are hiring a car, you will need to organize car seats in advance, or consider taking your own with you.
The summer months bring warmer weather. The inside temperature of a parked car can reach 60 degrees in less than 15 minutes. Never leave children unattended in a car, not even for a minute, as it can result in dangerous heatstroke and even death. If you see a child unattended in a car, call emergency services on 000.
Travel sickness can wreak havoc on a road trip. If your child gets queasy, try to encourage them to eat small amounts often. Have them sit in the middle in the back seat so that they can see the horizon while travelling. Avoid activities that encourage looking down (like reading or viewing screens!) as this can make motion sickness worse, and if you know your child suffers badly from motion sickness, see your doctor or pharmacist before you travel for some anti-nausea medication.
Childproofing your environment
Take some time to childproof your accommodation like you would your own home. Make sure sleeping environments are safe. If you are using a hire cot or portable cot, check it meets Australian safety standards, and that it is in good condition and has been assembled correctly and securely. Watch out for bunk beds – make sure they have secure safety railings and if you have toddlers remove the ladder if possible to avoid them climbing up.
Be careful about balconies – consider avoiding floors high up if you have toddlers. Check the railings are safe and remove any chairs or other furniture that could be used as a ladder and create a serious falls risk.
Check that there’s no exposed electrical wires or cords from blinds that could be wrapped around necks and create a strangulation hazard. Ensure that sharp knives and other dangers in the kitchen are out of reach.
If there is a pool on the property, check that the fence and gate are secure. In some countries pools do not have to be fenced like they do in Australia. If you have young children, enquire when you are booking to make sure that any pool or spa is safely fenced.
Understanding everyone’s limits
Remember that children can become dehydrated, hungry and fatigued more quickly and easily than adults. Plan your holiday activities with this in mind. Avoid being out in the heat of the day and always pack plenty of snacks and water. Keep on top of sun care with hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Good hygiene will help you to avoid an upset stomach and holiday filled with gastro. Take hand sanitizer for your children to use before eating when you are out and about.
Be prepared for illness and injury
Even the best planning will not prevent all illness and injury on holidays. Be prepared by taking a well-stocked first aid kit. Know where to access healthcare in your holiday destination, and if you are going overseas be sure to have appropriate travel insurance. And don’t forget travel immunisations – see your GP for specific advice if you are planning to travel overseas.
The RCH Kids Health Info app is full of useful advice on dealing with common illness and injury – download it before you go so you can access trustworthy information from anywhere if needed.
Happy and safe travels!