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Today's Family Magazine

Tips for healthy summer travel

By Laura Reed-McClain

Summer is the time to get outdoors and travel.  Whether your family is headed for the beach, the mountains or even venturing overseas, smart preparation goes a long way toward helping to ensure a safe and healthy vacation.  Here are some preventive health measures and treatment tips to help family members enjoy their time away from home.

Get vaccinated
Current measles outbreaks in Ohio and throughout the United States and the world are a reminder of the importance of immunizations, especially if you are traveling to a foreign destination where sanitary conditions are less stringent, diseases are more common and vaccination rates are far lower.  Before you travel, consult your pediatrician and make sure your youngsters are up-to-date on all their childhood vaccinations.  Depending on your destination, prevention for typhoid, yellow fever, malaria and other diseases may also be needed.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s vaccines website and CDC are reliable sources of information.

Pack smart
Because pharmacies may not be convenient at your destination, it’s smart to pack a travel bag with some basic over-the-counter medicines.

Recommendations include a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen; an antidiarrheal, especially since changes in diet and water can be an issue; a multisymptom cold medicine; and an antibacterial ointment and adhesive strips for cuts and scrapes.  If you’re flying, pills and chewables are preferred due to liquid restrictions.

Prevent ear pressure
Many of us have been on an airplane with crying children who feel ear discomfort during takeoff and descent.  This is caused by stress exerted on the eardrum when the air pressure in the middle ear and the environment are of out of balance.

Parents can help alleviate the pressure by instructing children to perform the Valsalva maneuver. Have them hold their nostrils tightly closed while blowing through the nose.  They should feel and hear the pressure equalizing in their ears.  They can also yawn, chew gum or swallow something like a drink to relieve the pressure.

Sometimes children who commonly suffer from allergies, colds and infections have extra fluid from sinus drainage in their eardrums making any additional pressure from a flight incredibly painful.  Children’s decongestants taken 30 minutes prior to the flight can be helpful in decreasing some of that fluid.

Protect against sunburn
Teaching children proper sunscreen use is critical to prevent skin cancer later in life.  Select a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF which blocks 97% of both UVA and UVB rays (a higher SPF only blocks an additional 1-2%).

When using lotion, the equivalent of half a shot glass is a good guide for covering the exposed areas of a child’s body (a full glass for teenagers and adults).  If you’re flying and packing sunscreen for the trip, remember to use lotion vs. spray bottles due to flight restrictions.

When using sprays, make sure they reach the skin and are not wasted in the atmosphere.  Apply 15 minutes before going outside.  Re-apply every two hours or after swimming or sweating excessively (no sunblock is waterproof).  Don’t forget their lips and find a fashionable pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat they’ll wear.

If they have a bad burn, try cold baths or showers and apply aloe or hydrocortisone cream.  For anything more than a first-degree burn, have them evaluated by a medical provider as soon as possible.

Avoid motion sickness
A child with motion sickness on an airplane or in the car can make for unpleasant travel.

Motion sickness is most likely to take place in youngsters ages 2 to 12. Prevention starts in advance with your children’s diet.  Stick to light meals and avoid greasy and fatty foods.

Smart choices in seating also make a difference.  Make sure they can see the road over or between seats if they are old enough to face forward.  The center of the back seat or middle row of a minivan offer the best view of the windshield.  Seats over the wings of a plane and at the front of the train provide the most stability.

Books and movies are a great way to pass time, but for children prone to motion sickness, they can trigger nausea very quickly.  In this case, music and books on tape are the best choice.

If your child does become nauseous and you are not able to stop for fresh air, open the windows and have them close their eyes and recline as much as possible.  Dry crackers and ginger ale may help settle their stomach.

Children’s dramamine — available in chewable tablets — can be taken one hour prior to travel for prevention.
Limit ear infections
Swimming in the ocean, lakes and pools causes water to collect in the outer ear canal where bacteria naturally grows.  When the moisture doesn’t dry, fungal or bacterial infections can develop causing intense pain and itching.  If this occurs, see a health care provider for evaluation and treatment to eliminate infection and prevent further complications.

For prevention, try mixing a 50/50 alcohol and white vinegar solution and pour several drops into each ear after swimming.  Let it sit five minutes before draining.  Then wave a blow dryer on low heat over the ear.

Laura Reed-McClain is the mother of two boys (ages 11 and 23) and a nurse practitioner at MinuteClinic inside the CVS Pharmacy store in Chardon.

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