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Travel Health and Safety Tips

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By Cathy Lanigan, Lonely Planet

Staying Healthy

Children can be very adaptable to climate and time changes but they are more susceptible to infections and accidents.

Earache and flying

On flights, air pressure changes can cause ear pain in babies and young children. Older children can be given chewy sweets or drinks, or encouraged to blow their noses, which should help their ears to pop. If your child has an ear infection or bad cold, you should postpone flying until it is better.

Motion sickness

This is extremely common in children and can turn even a short journey into a trauma. Ginger is a good remedy and you can buy ginger capsules from many health food stores; check that the capsule dosage will be suitable for your children's weight and age. You could also use promethazine. (Follow the dosing guidelines, and note that it's not recommended for children under 2 years.) Promethazine will often make your child sleepy, although the effects are very variable. A natural soothing alternative is chamomile.

Food, water and cleanliness

You'll probably want to avoid giving children carbonated soft drinks, but packet fruit juices are usually available. Wash children's hands and faces frequently throughout the day, especially if you are traveling on public transport. Another good preventative measure is to discourage hands wandering into the mouth, eyes and nose as much as possible. A supply of wet wipes can be invaluable, especially on long journeys.

Diet and nutrition

New foods are usually met with surprise and a reflex refusal, but stress and new surroundings can distract children from eating and hat often reduces even the healthiest of appetites. Try to introduce new foods gradually, perhaps starting before you leave. Even if your child doesn't want to eat, fluids are a must, especially if it's hot.

Insect bites

Biting insects carry a number of serious diseases so it's extremely important to protect your children from bites. Make sure your child is covered up with clothes, socks and shoes, and use insect repellents on exposed areas - either DEET-containing repellents or the new natural repellents containing lemon eucalyptus.

Try to discourage scratching of bites if they occur, as this often leads to infection. Keep fingernails cut short and use calamine cream or a sting-relief spray to ease irritation.

Accidents and other hazards

Children are accident-prone at the best of times, but the dangers are even greater when you're traveling, so you need to be even more vigilant than normal. Many hotel rooms and restaurants are not built with children in mind and may have a nightmare-inducing lack of safety features, particularly where windows and balconies are concerned. Some precautions to think about taking:

  • Be on the lookout for potential risks and unsafe features
  • Try to be aware of what your child is doing at all times, especially if they're playing outside
  • Make sure your child has some form of identification on them at all times, including details of where you are staying
  • Drowning is surprisingly common - be particularly vigilant around swimming pools or at the beach and remember that drowning can occur in shallow water as well as deeper water
  • Check new beaches for debris, discarded hypodermics, glass and tins, as well as various "offerings" left by people and animals

Cuts and scratches

In hot, humid climates these can easily become infected and it can be difficult to keep children clean, especially if they are running around. You'll need to take a bit more care of abrasions than you would normally. Wash any break in the skin carefully with soap and water or antiseptic solution or antiseptic wipe and keep it covered with a sterile, non-stick non-fluffy dressing. It's probably worth checking your child carefully at the end of each day for cuts, scratches and potentially problematic bites.


Anyone can get sunburnt but little ones are especially vulnerable. Keep children and babies covered up (long-sleeved T-shirt, hat, etc.). Apply liberal amounts of the highest factor sunscreen you can find on any exposed skin and reapply it frequently. Keep your child out of the sun during the middle of the day when the sun is at its fiercest. Not only is sunburn miserably painful for your child, it's thought to be a major risk factor for skin cancer in later life.