Holiday Travel and Staying Healthy: A Parent’s Guide – The winter holidays create some of our best family memories. It’s also the time of year when travel and large family gatherings disrupt our children’s normal routines and make them more susceptible to sickness and fatigue.
Taking preventive steps and preparing in advance can help to ensure a healthy holiday for the entire family.
Many of us have been on an airplane with crying children who feel ear discomfort during take-off and descent. This is caused by stress exerted on the eardrum when the air pressure in the middle ear and the environment are of out of balance.
Parents can help their children alleviate the pressure by instructing them to perform the Valsalva maneuver. Have them hold their nostrils tightly closed while blowing through the nose. They should feel and hear the pressure equalizing in their ears. They can also yawn, chew gum or swallow something to drink to relieve the pressure.
Sometimes children who commonly suffer from allergies, colds and infections have extra fluid from sinus drainage in their eardrums making any additional pressure from a flight incredibly painful. Decongestants like Tylenol Sinus (Children under age 12 should take the pediatric version) taken 30 minutes prior to the flight can be helpful in decreasing some of that fluid.
As a preventive measure, I often have parents stop by my MinuteClinic location the day prior to travel just to have their children’s ears checked.
An ill child on an airplane or in the back seat of the car with motion sickness can also make for unpleasant travel.
Motion sickness is most likely to take place in youngsters ages two to 12. Prevention starts in advance with your children’s diet. Stick to light meals and avoid greasy and fatty foods.
Smart choices in seating also make a difference. Make sure they can see the road over or between seats if they are old enough to face foward. The center of the back seat or middle row of a minivan offer the best view of the windshield. Seats over the wings of a plane and at the front of the train provide the most stability.
Books and movies are a great way to pass time, but for children prone to motion sickness, they can trigger nausea very quickly. In this case, music and books on tape are the best choice.
If your child does become nauseous and you are not able to stop for fresh air, open the windows and have them close their eyes and recline as much as possible. Dry crackers and ginger ale may help settle their stomach.
Over the counter medicines are a good recommendation when children have exhibited past issues with motion sickness. Pay attention to directions. Children’s Dramamine — available in chewable tablets — should be taken one hour prior to travel.
Tips When You Arrive at Your Destination
When parents ask me what they can do to keep their children healthy during holiday trips, I encourage them to build in some exercise as a way of bonding with other family members.
If it’s not too cold, a bike ride, neighborhood walk or hike at a nearby park is great exercise for all generations. For large families, a flag football game or soccer match creates friendly competition and physical activity.
Proper sleep is also critical. Be sure to build in some nap time and account for any lost hours resulting from plane travel. Restrict time with mobile devices and video games to encourage sleep.
Good nutrition is more important than ever. The holidays are a time for sweets, so a fresh fruit basket is the perfect hostess gift for everyone to enjoy. Smaller portions will help slow children down and prevent over-eating.
Lastly, don’t forget about yourself. The grandparents will be happy to see their grandchildren, so build in some mom and dad time and have fun!
Disclaimer: (Written by Megan Ramirez, a former teacher and family nurse practitioner who lives in St. Cloud, FL and works at MinuteClinic inside the CVS Pharmacy store in Davenport, FL.)