Be prepared for food, water, weather and biting bugs that may not agree with your little ones, writes Alexia Santamaria.
One of the biggest challenges when travelling is keeping the younger members of our families healthy. Different foods and bugs, changes in weather and local water supplies can all play havoc with their little systems. While some illnesses and injuries are inevitable, there's a certain amount you can do to minimise ill health when in challenging overseas environments.
Marc Shaw is a travel doctor from Worldwise in Auckland. He says it's really important to think about kids' health before you leave the country. He finds adults often don't think enough about the precautions they need to take when they head to areas where hygiene standards are different from New Zealand.
"While we never force anyone to be vaccinated or take antimalarials, it's always worth checking out what you need for a country so you can make an informed decision yourself," Shaw says.
"One to definitely think about, with the rise in popularity of places like the monkey forest in Ubud in Bali, is preventative rabies precautions. We are treating two to three people a month right now with mammalian bites — usually from dogs, cats, bats or monkeys."
Shaw also recommends having a think about food. "Kids should definitely try the local food but maybe not launch right in on the first day. Getting steadily more adventurous is a good strategy.
"I always think some of the safest street food to eat is what you've witnessed come out of hot oil or water; that temperature will likely kill most bugs. I also like to say 'cook it, boil it, peel it or avoid it'; it's always better to peel that mango or pineapple yourself than buy the pre-peeled and washed fruit that always looks so attractive.
Taking some packaged food from home (like muesli bars or packets of noodles) is a good idea so kids can be eased into local cuisine gently but still have some food that is familiar to them."
Water can be a problem too, with varying levels of hygiene in different locations. Shaw recommends using a filter bottle (with a fine filter, up to 0.1 microns) or a Steripen water purifier.
"I've used a Steripen very successfully in areas like the Amazon and no one got sick — even drinking river water. Of course, bottled water is an option too but stick to a familiar brand from a shop that has a lot of bottles in its fridge. If you really want to be safe, gaseous or aerated water should be very sterile."
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As most travellers know, insects and sun can wreak all kinds of havoc, especially in areas where mosquitoes can cause disease.
"Children above 2 months can tolerate 20 to 30 per cent Deet [insect repellent] but if they have a reaction, Icaridan is another option for sensitive skin," Shaw says.
"And one interesting thing to note is you should always wait 30 minutes after applying sunscreen, to apply repellent as otherwise it makes the sunscreen 30 per cent less effective."
Naturopath Julie Fergusson, recommends some essentials for travelling with kids. "While you should definitely take out actual travel insurance, I consider these my kit of natural travel insurance remedies to make travel more pleasant."
Activated charcoal capsules are incredible if you have an upset stomach, gas or diarrhoea — often inevitable in less developed countries. They act like a big sponge in the intestinal tract and soak up all the toxins. Activated charcoal is only good to take for a short time (a few days) as it can absorb important nutrients.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a must for travelling families. It's great for sunburn, insect bites, blisters, as a natural hand sanitiser and antiseptic. It works really well when mixed with aloe vera and you should always dilute it if it's neat. A word of caution if you are travelling with essential oils, pop them into their own plastic bag so if they leak they don't damage anything else in your case.
If travelling somewhere hot it is a good idea to take mineral electrolytes. It is amazing how much we sweat and replenishing this lost fluid is vital. They can help with energy, and if you are sick, can help you get back on track faster.
Some kids - and adults - routinely get constipated when they are away from home. It can be to do with being out of routine or changing diets and time zones. If this is the case, ensure that you take fibre or a natural laxative (there are plenty of herbal teas, tablets or digestive enzymes that can help).
Supplements for nervous flyers
Magnesium and Rescue Remedy can be helpful for nervous young flyers (L-theanine is great for those over 8 years old too).
Pre-trip immune boosting
It's definitely worth boosting your immune system a week to 10 days before travelling, especially if travelling long distances. Vitamin D is a natural immune regulator, probiotics are fantastic and don't overlook old fashioned cod liver oil — it's an excellent immune strengthener.