First Aid on Vacation

How to treat illnesses and prevent injuries when you're away from home.

Top Travel Bugs

Before you go on vacation, it pays to be prepared for health emergencies. Kids are especially susceptible to illness and injury during summertime travel because they're more likely to spend time exposed to the sun and heat; their regular eating and sleeping routines are interrupted too. Caring for a sick child is also more difficult when you're away from the comforts of home. Here, our guide to helping your little ones stay well on the road, in the air, and in your hotel room.


How To Treat

Prevention Pointers

Motion Sickness

Find a rest area and let your child out of the car so she can get fresh air. Sipping ginger ale also helps.

Feed your child light foods, such as crackers and applesauce, before leaving home. Have her sit facing forward and near an open window.

Ear Pain While Flying

Moist heat relieves pressure, so bring washcloths with you. Ask the flight attendant to moisten and microwave them until they're warm, then put them over your child's ears. Kids 4 and older can chew gum to relieve the pressure.

Check with your pediatrician, who may recommend a child-size dose of an over-the-counter decongestant before the flight. You should also talk to your doctor if your child has a cold, because flying can make respiratory problems worse. Feeding your baby a bottle during takeoff can help as well.

Altitude Sickness

Children's acetaminophen can relieve mild symptoms like headaches and queasiness. If symptoms persist -- or seem severe -- contact your doctor.

Have your child drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which can make symptoms worse.


Give your child Pedialyte to replace electrolytes and fight dehydration. Until she feels better, have her eat starchy foods such as noodles, toast, and bananas. If diarrhea persists for more than two days, call your pediatrician.

Always have your child wash her hands well after using the bathroom. Because diarrhea can be caused by eating contaminated food and water, make sure meals are cooked thoroughly.

Heat Exhaustion

Take your child inside, or at least into the shade, and have her drink plenty of water. If symptoms persist, if she can't keep fluids down, or if she refuses to drink water, seek medical attention immediately.

Drink plenty of water, and avoid caffeinated sodas, which dehydrate the body. Don't let your child overexert herself during the hottest times of the day.

Prickly Heat

Get your baby or toddler out of the heat right away. Cool colloidal oatmeal baths (brands such as Aveeno are available at drugstores) will relieve the itch and irritation.

Dress your child in loose-fitting cotton clothing, and have her drink water. If it's extremely hot, stay inside as much as possible.


Keep skin hydrated with aloe-vera lotion, and apply cool compresses to relieve the sting. Acetaminophen can also alleviate some of the discomfort.

Apply a waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 half an hour before going in the sun, and reapply often; wear wide-brimmed hats or bonnets.

On-the-Go First-Aid Kit

Whether you travel by car, plane, or boat, never leave home without a well-stocked first-aid kit. If you're driving, leave it under the front seat instead of in your glove compartment, which gets very warm and can damage medication. Your kit should include:

  • children's-strength acetaminophen
  • Band-Aids, gauze, and first-aid
  • tape
  • tweezers and scissors
  • antibiotic ointment, for cuts and scrapes
  • a topical antihistamine or anti-itch lotion, such as calamine
  • antacid
  • Pedialyte, for dehydration and diarrhea
  • antiseptic wipes
  • cold pack
  • thermometer
  • syrup of ipecac, to induce vomiting*

*In the event that your child swallows a poisonous substance, always call 911 or a poison control center before giving it to him.

Don't Leave Home Without....

  • giving your trip itinerary and the phone number of where you'll be staying to someone you trust.
  • checking everyone's medical records to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. (It's also a good idea to bring along a mini medical summary of each child's shots, allergies, medications, and blood type).
  • getting refills of your prescriptions before you go and bringing along a copy of the signed prescription for contacts and eyeglasses from your eye doctor. Remember to pack copies of your family's medical and dental insurance forms.
  • packing a night-light, electrical outlet covers, and any other childproofing items for your hotel room.
  • making a plan with your children for what to do if they get lost. On arrival at theme parks and zoos, designate a specific meeting spot in case someone gets separated from the group.
  • taking some form of identification for each child that lists his name, address, any allergies he has, and the number of the person to call in an emergency. Order waterproof ID bracelets from Safety SportID; ID stickers worn inside a child's shoes are available at Kmart or through


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