Commentary by William Heisel, MD
This month families begin heading to warmer climates for spring break. Whether you’re traveling by plane or car, here are some important things to remember to keep your family healthy on vacation.
Tips for air travel
1. Fight germs. Before settling into your seat, wipe the tray table and armrests with antibacterial wipes. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating. Don’t use airplane pillows or blankets unless they are delivered to you in plastic. Better yet, bring your own.
2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of bottled water during the flight. Lip balm, moisturizer and small misters may come in handy to help combat dry cabin air.
3. Protect your ears. Changes in cabin air pressure can cause ear pain, especially in children. During takeoff and landing, offer an infant the breast or a bottle to encourage swallowing, which helps keep the eustachian tubes open. Chewing gum, yawning or swallowing are good remedies for older children and adults to avoid ear discomfort. If you have cold symptoms, talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant before flying to help prevent earache.
Tips for road travel
1. Take frequent breaks. Long car trips can take a toll on children and adults alike. Make a point to stop every two hours to stretch your legs. Build 15-minute breaks into your travel time so you won’t be tempted to skip them.
2. Snack smart. Avoid the high-sugar, high-fat snacks found in rest area vending machines and roadside convenience stores. Instead, pack healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, raw vegetables, pretzels or reduced-fat crackers. People often eat in the car to fend off boredom, so bring travel-friendly games to keep children engaged.
3. Prevent motion sickness. To ease motion sickness, keep your head still and avoid reading or watching TV or videos. If car sickness persists, stop for some fresh air, sip clear, carbonated beverages or eat soda crackers.
During vacation, keep children on their normal sleep schedules, when possible. Factor in time for naps between activities. Also, stick to their normal diets, as much as possible. They’ll be happier – and so will you.
William Heisel, MD, specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics. He is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Internal Medicine and Pediatrics – Saxony, 13100 E. 136th St., Suite 1200, Fishers. He can be reached by calling the office at 678-3100.