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  • Writer's pictureDr Andy Raffles

Summer Health & Travel with Babies & Young Children

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Travelling, whether to a package holiday in Spain, or backpacking in North Africa has a new dimension when you take a young baby with you. If you are a parent with toddlers you are most likely overly cautious when it comes to keeping them safe. Still, it's hard to plan for every situation. When it comes to summer health risks for toddlers here are some of the more commons situations for which you must be prepared.

Remember that getting ready to travel will take you twice as long as travelling without a child, and you are bound to forget something before you leave the hotel or home!

The most common medical problems small babies experience in hot countries are sunburn, prickly heat and diarrhoea. Earache, either from air travel, or a virus infection picked up during the journey mean that the Paracetamol and Ibuprofen must be at the top of your hand luggage!

At all costs avoid sunburn by keeping your child well out of the direct sun, wearing a hat and loose clothes, and applying high-protection sunscreen, high SPF, to a factor of 25-30 at least 15-20 minutes before going outside and reapply every couple of hours and after play in water (even if waterproof). Our Allergy and Dermatology Specialists colleagues commonly recommend for sensitive skins, La Roche Posay and SunSense sun-protection products. Remember to test on a small patch area first to ensure no skin irritation occurs, before proceeding with full coverage. Your child is more likely not to object to applying sun cream, if he/she sees you also applying to yourself.

Head for shade using trees, umbrellas and/or sun tents – remember to check your child’s position if asleep to ensure always out of direct sunlight, as the sun moves.

If your child does get sunburned, with red skin which feels hot to touch, which generally usually involves exposed areas of the skin, particularly cheeks, upper arms and back, cool the affected area with cool water or cold compresses, apply calamine lotion and give a pain relief such as liquid Paracetamol. Use weak 0.5-1% Hydrocortisone cream available over the counter at most chemists to prevent the skin blistering and to reduce pain and itchiness.

Prickly heat is a fine red rash with tiny blisters due to blocked sweat in hot climates - avoid the condition by keeping children cool and dressing them only in 100 per cent cotton clothing. If using a car at your resort, make sure it has air-conditioning – cars in hot countries can be like ovens and your baby will overheat rapidly. Some children get very croupy in the air-conditioned climate – easily treated by turning off the AC and opening windows.

Diarrhoea can be particularly troublesome in babies as they can dehydrate at a faster rate than adults. Make sure all drinking water and water for milk formulas is sterilised. Breastfeeding is the safest way to feed your baby in foreign countries. Use bottled water if required, and take sachets of any oral rehydration solution, such as Dioralyte with you when you travel.

Take plenty of bottled water – check it has low sodium content – and sachets of re-hydration powder, which is mixed with water. If the diarrhoea is severe and is accompanied by vomiting then you may need to ask for further advice from a pharmacist or resort doctor if available. Always take out comprehensive medical insurance so you can see a doctor without worrying about the expense.

Accidents can, and do happen, so take care with any child, and yourselves, around water – whether a peaceful lake, or the waves of the open seas. Drowning is probably one of the most unfortunate summer health risks for toddlers. With increased use of pools (even small child sized pools) and time spent at lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. the chances of an infant drowning are greatly increased during the summer. It doesn't take long and it might only require several inches of water, so make sure that if you have a pool it is properly protected from a toddler getting to it and that you supervise any child around water, no matter how unlikely a water related accident seems.

Broken bones from falls are more frequent in summer months simply due to your child’s increased activity outdoors. This usually means more and harder, bumps, trips, and falls. Instead of hitting carpet, our children are hitting the hard ground or pavement. While there is little that can be done when it comes to how or when a toddler will fall, keeping them from running on harder surfaces or climbing or walking in dangerous outdoor areas can reduce the chance of broken bones from falls as a summer health risk for toddlers.

When summer allows lots of outdoor activity, children are always on the go. This can pose a problem when you want them to eat, but they would rather be doing something more important.. like playing outdoors! Making sure your toddler isn't running or playing when eating can reduce the risk of choking. Also summer foods - melon, grapes ,sausages etc are choking hazards – if not cut up small - so prepare these delicious snacks with the thought of a busy toddler filling their mouths and then running off!

Food poisoning is another potential problem slightly more frequently seen in the summer. Summer is a time for grilling and cooking outside and you might find that your toddler enjoys taking a little nibble of your barbecued treat. But beware of any rare or under cooked, or improperly handled foods that could cause a food borne illness not only for you, but for your toddler too. Especially with air travel taking us all to more and more exotic and faraway places the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea is always present.

With the coming of warmer months, both dogs and toddlers will be spending more time outside. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your toddler is supervised at all times when outside and that owned or neighbourhood dogs are properly housed and regulated.

While avoiding scrapes and cuts as summer health concerns is nearly impossible when it comes to toddlers, ensuring that these injuries are properly cleaned and treated can prevent infection from setting in, so always carry some sticking plasters and antiseptic cream – although a wipe over with a parents saliva soaked handkerchief is always an effective first aid measure – with an accompanying kiss to make it better!!

Watch out for few exotic illnesses – such as malaria risk in some areas and seek up to date professional advice for appropriate treatments. Also be aware of the risk of ticks – small insects which grip the skin and can cause illness – one is called Lyme disease, named after Lyme in Connecticut, USA – but is also present in the UK in areas of woodland where deer may live e.g. the New Forest. When coming inside, or if you plan to be outside for an extended period, you should inspect your toddler (especially the head area) to ensure there are no ticks on him or her. Lyme disease is spread by ticks and rarely can be a summer health concern for toddlers.

With good preparation, there's no reason why you can't give yourself and your toddler or baby a great holiday abroad. Just one last piece of advice – don't forget to pack a camera so that later in life your child can see the places they went to!

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