Safe Travel with Kids


                Happy Fall! The holiday season is upon us and for many families this means travel…and the fun of travel with small children.  My first trip with a 2 month old included packing an entire box of diapers and more outfits than she could wear in a week.  We had a stuffed car, but were able to have a great time.

               The most common way for families to travel is by car.  The recent car seat recommendation changes have caused some confusion.  In general:

-From birth to 2yo babies should stay in rear-facing car seats

-From 2yo to 4yo toddlers should be in front facing car seats

-From 4yo to 8yo children should be in booster seats

-Kids <13yo should be in the backseat

                But, look at the height and weight limits for your particular car seat and that is the final word.  Lots of parents are concerned that their baby’s legs will get cramped as they get bigger and continue to be rear facing.  It is simply safer for legs to be bent while they face towards the back.  The recommendation changes were based on multiple research studies showing kids <2yo were 75% less likely to die or be severely injured if they were rear facing during a serious car crash.  This is because of their large heads in relation to body size and weaker neck muscles.

               If you are traveling by airplane it is also recommended that babies and children <40 lbs be fastened in a car seat while in the airplane.  Other considerations for airplanes are air pressure changes and the close contact of people during cold and flu season.   Lots of hand washing is the best prevention from getting sick.  Hand sanitizer is a close second.  The low humidity in planes also contributes by decreasing some natural defenses (such as mucous in the nose) so staying well hydrated will also help.  Timing bottle feedings with takeoff and landing will help equalize ear pressure.  Swallowing and chewing opens the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and equalizes pressure.

               There are also special considerations depending on where you are traveling.  Traveling to other countries may have risks of different infections.  There may be medications or immunizations you need.  For example, a meningitis vaccine is required for travel to Saudi Arabia.  A yellow fever vaccine is recommended for travel to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.  There is a higher risk of measles in India and so a vaccine dose in 6mo-12mo babies is recommended.  Malaria prophylaxis (a prescription medication) is recommended for travel to high malaria risk areas including India, rural Mexico and the Philippines.  Call our office at least 4 weeks before you travel is you have questions.  The website has lots of information also.

               Lastly, packing the right things is important and more is needed for kids.  Medically, it is important to try to be prepared if someone gets sick or injured.  Think about bringing a thermometer, saline, bulb suction, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  First aid supplies of band aids, triple antibiotic ointment and tweezers could be needed.  Also think about diarrhea relief and hydration options if needed.  Pedialyte and florastor can help.  Remember Pepto-Bismol (with salicylates) is not recommended for kids. 

Have a great time on your trip!

Heidi Swanson, DO

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