In most parts of the country, Spring Break starts up next week. That means tens of thousands of families will be jetting off to faraway places for vacation. With flu season still upon us, it also means families need to be extra-specially careful to make sure youngsters don’t get sick. As part of an ongoing partnership with Bundoo, I recently chatted about this subject with Dr. Sara Connolly, a Bundoo expert and board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Partners in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Here are some of Connolly’s most important tips.
It’s not too late to vaccinate. It might be March, but Connolly said kids still can get flu vaccines. “Even though we’re at the tail end of flu season, we’re still seeing flu cases all over the country,” she said. “Considering a flu will sideline the whole family, if you haven’t gotten one yet, why risk it?”
Lots of hand washing. “When you’re sitting in the airport—or on the airplane, for that matter—your child has a knack for finding the dirtiest and grimiest spots,” joked Connolly. By washing hands regularly, however, your little one can make sure the germs he or she picks up don’t have the chance to wreak havoc. Connolly suggested carrying alcohol-free hand sanitizer as well—this comes in handy when you can’t find a sink and it’s not toxic if your littlest one manages to ingest it.
Baby in a bubble. Speaking of the littlest ones, Connolly added that it’s best to keep babies as far as possible from other travelers. Her advice: A sign in the stroller, that reads (something like): MY LITTLE BODY IS TOO SMALL FOR YOUR BIG GERMS; PLEASE DON’T TOUCH. If push comes to shove (literally), she suggested talking down strangers firmly. “You’re the parent,” she noted. “You should have no problem telling people, ‘Babies are adorable but please don’t touch them.’”
Stick to the routine. When families travel, we tend to get out of our routines. We keep the kids up for the 10 p.m. fireworks display at Disneyland. We eat lots of chicken fingers and French fries. Connolly said that while some families see these routine-busters as inevitable, the changes could compromise developing immune systems. “The younger your kids are, the more you should stick to your patterns from home,” she warned. “Even if it seems weird eating at 5:30 p.m. on vacation, doing that will keep their bodies operating normally.”
Fight bugs. Bugs are notorious germ carriers, which means it’s important to put your kids in the best position to avoid bug bites on the road. Connolly’s advice? Lots and lots of bug spray. For older kids, she suggested applying spray at least two or three times a day, and at least once after sundown. For babies, she recommended spraying the outside of the stroller—obviously, when your child is NOT inside. “Anything to keep the bugs away will help,” she said.
Sunscreen. Nothing ruins the mojo of a family trip like a nasty sunburn. To avoid this, Connolly suggested liberal application of sunscreen on everyone in the family, multiple times a day. She noted that sunscreen now is available in stick, spray, cream, lotion. For younger babies, there even are wipes that contain lotion. “The smaller the child is, the easier it is to get them protected,” Connolly said. She added that in addition to good sunscreen, parents should have kids wear sun-protective clothing to minimize the effects of the sun.
Before wrapping up our conversation, I asked Connolly how much of a difference we doting parents can make by wiping down the seat area on an airplane. Her response: In a nutshell, not much. “It certainly makes us feel better, but the reality is that virus particles that have been sneezed or coughed out onto the tray table or armrest likely are still alive and might get you sick,” she said. For parents who insist on doing the wipe-down (FWIW, that would be Powerwoman and me), Connolly noted that baby wipes always are the best approach, and that you do NOT want to use bleach wipes (lest one of your seatmates have an allergy). She also said that airplane bathrooms are the dirtiest places on the entire plane, and that wiping down those surfaces before you use them with your child always is a good idea. Another option that receives Connolly’s endorsement: PottyCover. Check ’em out.
What are your tips for keeping the kids healthy during travel for Spring Break?