Keep your family safe and healthy on holiday…
Sometimes the best part of planning a family vacation is figuring out where to go. Sometimes this is also the toughest part! The world is a big place and different countries have different pros and cons. Whatever your travel preferences, if you’re bringing along a baby or small children, you have two main things to keep in mind while deciding upon a destination: safety and health.
Many popular tourist destinations are, in fact, safe – simply because tourism is their main industry and they need to protect tourists and their dollars (and pounds, and euros…). However, in recent years, there have been travel advisories placed upon some popular destinations due to a particularly high crime rate or political unrest. If your dream vacation locale seems a little off the beaten track, the Canadian Government has all of their travel advisories online at www.voyage.gc.ca. Wherever you decide to go, exercise the same caution you would at home with regard to carrying a lot of money or valuables. If your hotel offers a safe or safety deposit box, use it! If they charge for it, it’s worth it if only for your peace of mind.
One nice thing that we’ve discovered since traveling with our baby, is that we are approached far less often. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve never felt threatened, but during previous travels we were always offered various drugs, souvenirs, guided tours, etc. Since we’ve brought our daughter along on holiday, we’ve only noticed that the time-share folks have ramped up their sales approach. Perhaps they realize you’re not there to whoop it up, so the usual array of swindlers and scammers in touristy regions stick to those not toting their tots.
Your health and your family’s health are also concerns in choosing a destination. Many people associate a sunny holiday with a troubled tummy, but this needn’t be the case if you take precautions. Most places, especially highly touristed areas, now have purified water available, but if you have any doubt don’t take any chances. Choose bottled water, avoid ice cubes and stick to the old Peace Corps saying “if you can’t peel it or heat it don’t eat it.” Also, wash your and your children’s hands frequently and properly. Here is where you want to remember to pack hand sanitizer as well as sanitizing wipes! Sadly, we can’t rely on other people’s hygiene so we have to be sure of our own.
Ideally you’ve selected a destination that has a low-to-no malaria risk. The CDC offers a helpful interactive malaria risk map here: www.cdc.gov. Anti-malarials are no fun at any age so you’re better off changing your travel plans. However, mosquito bites and bites from other insects are a reality – especially if you’re heading South. Your best bet in avoiding complications from bites is to avoid being bitten. Stay indoors during peak mosquito times (usually dawn and dusk) and make sure you keep your room’s doors and windows shut unless they are screened. Use insect repellent with DEET.
Health Canada’s guidelines regarding DEET are:
- Do not use DEET on infants less than 6 months
- For children 6 months to 2 years, use only if there is a high risk of mosquito bites, and then use only once a day (use product containing 10% DEET or less).
- For children 2-12 years of age, use no more than 3 times a day (10% DEET or less). Avoid using over a long period.
- For adults and children over 12 years of age, Health Canada recommends approved insect repellents containing 5-30% DEET.
- Wash skin with soap and water when you return indoors after using insect repellents with DEET or when you no longer need protection.
- Do not put repellent on children’s faces and hands. This will reduce their chances of getting it in their eyes and mouth.
- You can use both sunscreen and insect repellent when you are outdoors. Apply the sunscreen first, followed by the insect repellent.
Non-Deet formulations of insect repellant are available, but none are proven to be as effective. For babies under 6 months, keep all skin covered in light clothes and have them under a mosquito net whenever possible.
Traveling with your kids can be a wonderful experience; don’t let a bit of extra precaution stop you! Your memories will far outlast any worry about health and safety, so long as you’re prepared in advance.