When Kids Get Sick On Trips

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Kids get sick, that’s just a fact of life.  Most of the time you are at home where you can deal with illness without much of a hassle other than re-arranging your day.  Such as my son throwing up all over our car a couple weeks ago just as we were loading up the car to leave for the baby sitters so mommy could go to her skating practice.  But what do you do when your child gets sick on your vacation?  Especially if you’ve flown thousands of miles to get to your destination!  Here are a few tips to manage a sick child on holiday while trying to still salvage your trip.

When my son threw up the other day, it reminded me of our vacation to Budapest and Bratislava a couple years ago when my oldest son (then just 4 years old) threw up all over our hotel room in Slovakia on the last day of our trip, an hour before we were supposed to check out of the hotel.

We were still living in Germany at the time and drove the 6 hours to Budapest, Hungary and Bratislava, Slovakia.  We were going to be gone a total of 6 days.  After a wonderful time in Budapest, we on to Bratislava for the last 2 1/2 days.  The morning we were going to check out and drive home I was packing some things in our suitcase when I heard a cough, then a quick gagging sound.  I immediately looked over at my son, already knowing what was coming next and shouted at my husband to get him to the bathroom since he was a closer to our son.  My husband lunged over to him and picked him up from behind and started to walk to the bathroom.  At the exact moment my husband took his first step, my son let loose the full contents of his stomach.  The spew spilled out directly in the path of travel my husband was on and just like in a cartoon, his next step went right into the slippery pile of puke that sent my husband’s feet right out from under him.  He landed flat on his back, in the puke, arms clinched around our son who landed safely on my husband’s stomach.

It’s just one of those things you can’t help, laughing through. The problem however, was that I had become an efficient packer, and even though we were road tripping it and that allowed me a few extra luxuries for the long drive, clothing was packed rather precisely and finding something clean enough for a toddler to wear on the last day of vacation was a challenge.  My poor husband was in the same boat!  It was also a Sunday so all the regular shops were closed so I could just pop into a store and buy a new outfit. Fortunately we were in a very friendly hotel and the late check out was not a problem nor did they make a big deal about the mess.  Somehow we managed to clean up everyone and made it home safely.  Thank goodness it was the last day of our trip!  But just in case yours is at the beginning or the middle here are a few things to be aware of and some tips for prevention.

Strolling around all bundled up and with an eye infection :(

Strolling around all bundled up and with an eye infection 😦

1. Even if you have enough clothes for your trip, still wash the first set of outfits in the sink after the first day and let dry in the place you are staying so that you will always have an extra set of “just in case” clothes that are clean.

2. Look up what a Pharmacy is called in the country you are visiting. In German it’s the Apotheke in French is Pharmacie. You will notice similar variations with the “Ap” or “ph/f” at the beginning of the word for many European countries.  And a red or green “+” (plus) sign is very common for medical/pharmaceutical locations.

3. Be aware that in some countries, such as Germany, these are closed on Sunday and holidays. However there is always an emergency pharmacy open in the city somewhere and a sign should be on the closed ones telling you where the emergency pharmacy is located.

4.  For young children, most European medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen and other medicines for anti-vomiting come in suppository form instead of an oral pill.  So if it looks a little waxy like and larger than you think a kid should be able to swallow, you know you’ve gotten the suppository and that it is for your little one’s bum not the mouth.

5.  In the event that your child isn’t feeling well and you dread wasting a day cooped up in a hotel, make that day a park or nature day.  If your child is small enough for a stroller, go outdoors and see the natural environment of your destination, or stroll a public park.  As long as they are appropriately dressed for the weather, the fresh air will do them some good in getting over the illness.

6. Gallon size ziplock bags and baby wipes can be your best friend!  Even if your child is already potty trained, baby wipes are wonderful for cleaning up messes in a pinch.  Ziplock pages are a great way to seal soiled clothing, or rags should an unexpected illness arise.

7.  Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are always a great idea.  I’ve also found anti-bacterial hand wipes from The Dollar Tree when I didn’t want to take the risk of  liquid bottle accidentally squeezing out inside my bag.

8. Take some powdered packets of Pedialyte. Easy to pack and then just mix up with water in case you or  your little ones get traveler’s diarrhea.  If you don’t have these, look for Gatorade or Poweraid (I found Poweraid to be more common than Gatoraid in Europe) to help replenish lost electrolytes. Also remember to stick to bottled water if you’ve gotten sick, as there is a chance that it was the tap water that made you or your child sick, depending on your destination.

9. Talk to your doctor/pediatrician or travel doctor before you go on your trip if you are venturing anywhere slightly exotic.  They may be able to give you some antibiotics to take with you to treat specific illnesses common to your area of travel, such as traveler’s diarrhea. You should also check if there are any specific vaccinations you should get before traveling to that area.

10. Know your medical insurance.  If you aren’t covered for travel outside of your home country, ask before a trip if you can purchase a short term traveler’s protection policy.  It might be cheaper and easier to use than a 3rd party trip insurance.  If you or your child gets really sick and you need to seek medical non-emergency medical help and you haven’t purchased coverage already, still try to call your insurance company before you go and see if you can get it activated on the spot. And lastly, there are also 3rd party travel insurance groups that can provide short term trip coverages for illness.  We’ve never used any 3rd party travel insurance as our insurance we in Germany covered all of the EU and we bought the extra package with our current insurance in the US that covers international travel.

A sign on a local German pharmacy on Sunday telling customers where the emergency pharmacy will be open for the day.

A sign on a local German pharmacy on Sunday telling customers where the emergency pharmacy will be open for the day.

Be sure to check out my other post “Travel Doctors-Help Protect Your Family On Your Next Trip Overseas.

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