Getting ready to take your family on a holiday can be both exciting and stressful.
Being away from your normal family routines such as eating and sleeping, as well as being subjected to a larger quantity of germs on airplanes and in large public spaces, also means that there's more of a chance that someone might get sick.
Traveling with your family? There are a few things to consider to ensure everyone stays healthy. Image credit: budesigns/sxc.hu
It can be particularly tricky for children to adjust to travel, especially overseas travel. Adults too may need a bit of effort and time adjusting to new foods, time zones, water, motion sickness, etc.
With bit of preparation however, there are a few things you can do to ease the likelihood of illness and help ensure everyone stays healthy on your holiday.
If you're planning an overseas holiday, it's important researching what vaccines you'll need. Image credit: Andrew Martin
Heading overseas? If your plans include going overseas, start preparing well in advance.Depending on your destination, it might be a requirement for all that you receive certain vaccinations.
While certain illnesses may not be common where you live, particular areas of the world do require you to be vaccinated against typhoid, yellow fever and others, particularly when going to places like South America, Africa and many parts of Asia.
Different locations will have different requirements and certain types of vaccines may require more than one dose to to be taken within a certain time period before traveling. Do a bit of research or consult with a travel doctor 2-3 months (if possible) before you go to get the best advice.
While you're with your doctor, discuss the possibility of malaria risk based on your destination.
Jet lag No matter if you're traveling overseas or just a few hours away domestically, jet lag is a very common experience for those who cross time zones as
it can take time for your internal body clock to catch up with your local time, leaving you (and particularly children) feeling tired, restless and sometimes with headaches or insomnia.
For dealing with insomnia, try to get plenty of rest before your trip and sleep as much on the flight as possible.
Because dehydration can contribute to jet lag, make sure to stay hydrated on the flight and try avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
When you arrive at your destination, if possible try to spend time in some sunlight during the day and try as best as you can to stick to your normal routine. If the kids go to bed at 8:30pm, try and keep that bedtime at the new destination. It'll help re-set you body clock faster.
Traveling by airplane can also cause a variety of ills such as motion sickness. Image credit:Aureliy Movila/sxc.hu
Travel ills Traveling on planes can also sometimes cause problems such as ear aches, motion sickness and tummy troubles.
Children in particular can be more sensitive to ear pain on flights due to the air pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If your child is old enough to chew bubble gum or suck on a hard lolly, this can help alleviate ear pressure. Many also find that infants and toddlers do better if they are nursing on a bottle or pacifier (dummy.)
Travel sickness occurs when your brain receives conflicting signals between the eye and ear. Your eye sees stability (as it's typically fixed on something within a car or plan) but your inner ear feels movement.
Most often this occurs on boats and in cars, but for some, planes can produce the same result. To combat it, try eating blander food like saltine crackers to combat nausea, and encourage your children to look outside the window. If you're in a car, keeping the window open a bit to let in fresh air can also help.
If it's possible to make frequent stops on car trips for a short break and to stretch your legs, do that too. Short walks and fresh air can help.
Diarrhea and upset stomach are also really common when traveling, particularly when your body is exposed to a variety of different germs, different foods, water, etc.
Also water in many developing countries isn't treated in the same way as water supplies in developed nations and may contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites, so it's important to take precautions to minimise exposure to unsafe water.
Consider drinking only bottled water when traveling and use bottled water for making ice, brushing teeth etc. If you must use tap water, boil it (if you can) or use a water purifying iodine tablet.
General health When you travel you'll spend far more time in large public places where you'll find many more germs so it's always important to remember the basics. Good hand-washing practices as wall as using natural hand sanitisers can cut down on travel bugs.
And while it's nice to live like a local, remember food that comes from street vendors (especially in areas where the food safety standards may not be the same as at home) can be risky so use good judgment.
It's also important to remember that all the practical health advice on using sunscreen, water safety when at the pool or beach, and wearing seat belts when you travel are also still important. It's also important to have travel insurance not just for an unforeseen illness but to protect yourself against cancelled flights, lost luggage and the like.
Doing a little planning in advance can help ensure that when the time comes, all you'll have left to do is relax and enjoy your family holiday.