When traveling with kids during cold and flu season, take into account the increased exposure to people and their germs.
It’s that time of the year again when symptoms of the cold or the flu can show up at the worst times. Right before a flight is one of those times. Yet reality is that life goes on and it is not always possible to delay the flight.
What can be done? In my book Jet With Kids, I included a section on ear pain and child related illness on flights. Flying with a sick passenger is challenging – especially when a young child.
Here I will post 7 basic tips we practice to help prevent illness on travel days:
1. Try to limit your family’s exposure to other children the week before traveling. Young children spread illness quickly and many times illness shows up days after exposure. *This meant I said no to play dates and outings the week before travel. Not always a popular choice, but the payoff was great when traveling with a healthy child! Remember kids can be incubating germs for a couple days before symptoms show.
2. Teach your kids thorough hand washing with soap. I have found foam soap is easiest for kids to wash with and makes it more fun. Have fun with it -my son and I compare who can make the most bubbles when washing hands which always leads to more thorough hand washing! When traveling, pack the instant hand sanitizer in an easy to reach area when traveling and use it! Outside mesh pockets of backpacks/strollers keep the sanitizer in sight and accessible. Avoid using lavatory sinks or soap dispensers. Use paper towels to touch door handles.
*Kids are easily influenced and taught new habits. Teach them that “Cover your cough or sneeze” means coughing or sneezing into their arm NOT their hands.
3. Teach children- even as young as toddlers- to sneeze or cough into the arm. Most of us were taught to cover our cough/sneeze with our hands. That is the worst thing to do since we then shake hands with others or touch doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, etc. and spread those germs! I am happy to see more attention on proper sneezing techniques (even adults need reminders!) Need a laugh? Watch this informative, funny video about coughing and sneezing. (The judging panel rating sneezers and coughers is great!)
4. Avoid sugar and junk food. This really does make a difference as you are “feeding the troops” of your immune system. Bulk up your immunity with some good nutrition and keep well hydrated with pure water! Recognize that traveling (especially by airplane) depletes a body’s reserves and require extra hydration. Kids are especially susceptible to junk food on travel days. Plan ahead and pack yummy (but healthy) travel food packed in fun containers.
5. Allow your body some resting time before the big day of travel. Get a good night of sleep the night before and dress appropriately the day of travel. The airline cabin can get cold even in hot climates -it is best to layer clothes (children too!). Airplane cabins can also be stuff and hot – layers are best, even for infants. *Parents this means you too! Last minute packing and getting the to-do-list done results in sleep deprivation (shorter fuse, easily overwhelmed, weaker bodies, and crabbier parents on travel days!) Plan ahead and travel after a full night of restful sleep when possible.
6. Give your troops (immune system) a boost! Treat your body like you would a military- sleep, nutrition, hydration with pure water (not dehydrating drinks), etc. really do affect “our troops”. Set the body up in a strong environment to get the job done (fighting off illness)! I like to use immune boosting and natural symptom relief products during cold and flu season and especially when traveling. My family has used various combinations of Elderberry, Olive Leaf Extract, Airborne for Kids, Emergen-C Kidz and Boiron’s Oscillococcinum.
7. Speak with your licensed health care provider if you should consider receiving vaccinations against the flu.
Travel of any kind doesn’t begin the day we leave home- our body is being prepped for the trip weeks in advance.
With the proper tools, training, rest, and nutrition our immune system may be the difference between a trip of a lifetime or the nightmare we want to forget.
Have a safe, healthy, and enjoyable trip!
This post was originally published October 18, 2007 and is being re-published with minor revisions.