Family health tips

How to avoid picking up travel bugs when holidaying with kids

Traveller’s tummy

My kids always pick up bugs when we travel. How can I prevent them catching holiday germs? Sue, The Lakes

Health Bay’s travel medicine nurse, Nancy Porter says:
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to prevent young children from picking up travel bugs. Little ones are naturally inquisitive and are always looking and touching everything in their environment. They have immature immune systems which make them more susceptible to the different germs that they may meet.

Prior to travel, you should check that all their routine immunisations are up to date. If you are holidaying abroad, we recommend that you consult your paediatrician or travel health advisor for individual risk assessment and advice.

The most common travel bug in kids is diarrhea. Quite often this is short lived, but children can quickly become dehydrated and quite ill as a result. It’s wise to pack some sachets of rehydration salts, which you can make up yourselves with bottled water. If the diarrhea is frequent and vomiting develops, you should seek medical help.

It’s also important to make sure that the water you drink is safe. If in doubt, use only bottled water, or water that is either chemically treated and/or filtered. Avoid ice cubes unless you know that the source is safe, and use bottled water for teeth cleaning.

When eating out, try to ensure that the food chosen is freshly prepared and piping hot. Avoid salad and fruits, unless you can peel it yourself. Food on buffets, leftovers and shellfish are much more risky, and best avoided, while make sure milk, ice cream and cheeses are made from pasteurised milk.

But the most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of acquiring travelers’ diarrhea is to wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse them under warm running water and dry thoroughly. This simple process will drastically reduce the bugs that commonly cause stomach upsets. Alcohol-based hand rub is a useful addition to hand washing, but not a substitute. Encourage your little ones to wash their hands before eating and drinking, and always after using the loo.
Nancy Porter is a travel medicine nurse at Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim (04 348 7140).

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