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Travelling and summer holidays

May 23, 2017 | Children safety

Travelling

As a rule, avoid overheated cars. The best time to set off on a trip is late afternoon or early morning. Bear in mind the possibility of traffic jams and lengthy periods of sun exposure (traffic accidents, ferries, etc.), and take plenty of refreshing drinks and water with you. Children should ride in the back seat with their seatbelts on, or should be fastened in high-quality child safety seats. If, for some reason, the safety seat has to be placed in the front seat, deactivate the air bag. You can turn on the air conditioning in the car, but make sure the cold air is not blowing directly at the child. It is also highly recommended that you change the air filters and disinfect the cooling vents with approved sprays.

If you are travelling by plane, the child will need more liquids than usual (in the case of long flights). If the child has a cold, administer nasal decongestants (e.g. ephedrine) before the flight to avoid discomfort in the middle ear caused by the change in air pressure. Breastfeeding can help reduce discomfort caused by an increase in air pressure during landing. There is no minimum age for when a child can be taken on a trip.

Sun, water, sea, mosquitos

Avoid direct sun exposure. Infants especially should be carefully protected with clothes, head gear or parasols. Nowadays, you can even buy clothes that contain protective UV factors. Nevertheless, a significant amount of UV rays still reach the skin, which should therefore be additionally protected with high-SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen (15 and more). Choose mineral-based SPFs (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), as chemical protection can irritate the skin (especially infant skin). It is best to avoid sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (peak sun intensity hours).

While tap water is usually drinkable, it should still be boiled, especially if you are staying in areas outside larger cities. Water from wells or rainwater storage tanks should not be used even after it has been boiled, because it contains the products of bacterial degradation. Use bottled water instead (still spring water or drinking water in Tetra Pak packaging). Portable water filters are usually not very efficient and are therefore not recommended. Only expensive (and typically nonportable) water purifying systems provide good quality drinking water.

Given the increased permeability of children’s skin on hot days, dehydration can occur fairly easily, especially if the child is also suffering from illnesses accompanied by fever, vomiting or diarrhoea. Make sure you have at hand oral rehydration salt (available in pharmacies under different names), which can be dissolved in appropriate amounts of water. In the case of diarrhoea or vomiting, begin administering this preparation even before dehydration symptoms appear (the most telling signs include a dry oral cavity and thick, sticky saliva).

If the child goes swimming in the sea, wash the child in freshwater afterwards to remove salt from the skin. If the sea is shallow, warm and turbid, it probably contains lots of planktons which can cause severe skin irritation. Freshwater baths and neutral soaps or shampoos help get rid of planktons.

Mosquitos are unpleasant visitors. Mosquito bites can be treated with a coating of special, fast relief gels (Floceta, Kamagel) covered with a cold compress. In the case of strong reactions, use anti-allergy medication.  It is best to provide protection by using repellents (creams and liquids which produce a smell that keeps insects away), tablets for electric anti-mosquito plug-ins, and (when outdoors) anti-mosquito spirals and candles with a slow burn which give off a special odour that keeps mosquitos away. To provide better protection for your infant and avoid possible harmful effects, apply repellents on their clothes rather than the skin.

Before starting your trip, collect information about the local health centres where you can seek help if necessary. If you are travelling to distant countries, consult the Epidemiological Clinic Unit of the Croatian Institute of Public Health or the Travel Medicine Department at the “Dr. Fran Mihaljević” University Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb. There you can obtain information regarding the epidemiological situation of your destination, the potential need for additional vaccination or medication against malaria medication, and information about other precautions you need to take.

prof. dr. sc.  Milivoj Jovančević

prof. dr. sc. Milivoj Jovančević

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