Your Health

Prepare for traveling with young children

If you have young children, you may be hesitant to take adventurous family vacations. But with proper planning, they can be enriching learning opportunities, not to mention a lot of fun.

Following are tips to help you and your family members enjoy safe, healthy and happy travels.

Bring a first-aid kit

Bring a well-stocked, lightweight first-aid kit that includes the following items.

• Over-the-counter pain medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil)

• Oral antihistamine medication (Benadryl)

• Pedialyte powder packets for rehydration

• Polysporin or Neosporin

• 1-percent hydrocortisone cream

• Anti-itch gel or cream

• Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol

• Sunscreen

• Any prescription medications (such as inhalers for asthma)

Pack mosquito protection

Pack the following items to protect against mosquitoes.

• Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hat

• Insect repellent containing up to 10 percent DEET

• Bed nets treated with permethrin if you’re not sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room (in malaria-risk areas)

• Permethrin or deltamethrin (another insecticide) to treat bed nets and clothes overseas

Research vaccinations

• Research and plan ahead so that you are sure that your child’s regular vaccinations are up-to-date.

• Talk to your pediatrician to learn what other vaccinations your child will need for your destination.

• Have your child get any necessary vaccinations at least one month before traveling to ensure that he or she has built up sufficient immunity.

• Find current information on recommended vaccinations for specific countries and other travel health information on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (

Prepare for plane ride and jetlag

• Swallowing helps clear the ears. To avoid earaches from the change in air pressure during take off and landing, give your child something to eat or drink.

• Teach your children to pretend yawn to help ease the pressure.

• There is no safe medication for children to help with jet lag. The best thing you can do is switch over to the local time as soon as you arrive at your destination. Make sure that your children are exposed to sunlight during the day, which helps the body adapt to the local time more quickly.

• Try to stick to a regular sleep and nap schedule so that your children stay rested.

Eat and drink safely in less-developed countries

• Stick to boiled or bottled water. If that isn’t available, choose a carbonated drink, because bacteria can’t survive in carbonated liquids. Avoid tap water, water fountains and ice cubes.

• Make sure that any food you eat is fully cooked, and don’t be tempted by delicious-smelling goodies from street vendors.

• Avoid dairy products unless you are sure that they have been pasteurized.

• Choose fruit you can peel, like bananas.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or after handling money.

Remember vehicle safety

• Bring and make sure that your child uses his or her car seat if you’ll be in a car during the trip.

• Be sure that all family members buckle their seatbelts during every car ride.

• Be sure that all family members wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorbike.

If you get sick …

• If you are staying with friends or family, ask them for a recommendation for a local doctor.

• Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for names and addresses of local doctors. Call Overseas Citizens Services at (888) 407-4747 (from the U.S. or Canada) or +1 (202) 501-4444 (overseas).

Dr. Manisha Panchal is a board-certified pediatrician at the Santa Clara Center of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.

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