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Tips for Traveling with Kids

Posted on Dec 14, 2020

COVID-19 makes holiday travel a dangerous idea, particularly as cases are spiking throughout the country. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Ebony Hunter, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital discusses tips for traveling with kids.

If you must travel with kids at this time, be sure both you and your children wear masks in public places and practice physical distancing. You may have to practice with them before travelling. Keep sanitizer and wipes readily available. If your child will wear a face shield, that is a great addition as well. Also, try to have as many pre-packaged snacks so that you don’t have to make as many stops to various places to pick up things.

What are some things to consider when traveling with kids even in the best of times?

First and foremost, the mode of transportation changes what you should consider when it comes to traveling. For instance, if you are traveling by car, make sure you have all safety seats properly secured and sized for your child’s weight, age and height. There are other things to consider when traveling by plane or train.

You mentioned planes and trains. What are tips for flying with kids or for traveling by train?

The main difference is you have to plan a little more because you don’t have the flexibility of simply stopping if you forgot something or pulling over as you would in a car. So, your bag has to have everything easily accessible and within reach if you should have an issue.

What are some medical considerations before traveling?

It would be ideal to make sure all immunizations are up to date before traveling. Also, if your child is on any medications, having an ample supply of those medications while traveling would be your best option. I always like to tell parents to pack an additional 48 hours of dosing for medications in the event of travel delays or something simple such as dropping the medication down the sink or some other accident. If your child has any rescue medications such as albuterol, EpiPens, glucagon, be sure to have those in your carry on.

If you happen to run low of medication while you are in another city/state, call your provider BEFORE you run out of the last dose and have the provider call in to a national pharmacy chain such as CVS, Walgreen, Walmart, etc. This way your provider’s license would be recognized, and you can still receive your medications.

Should family prepare for more accidents beyond that?

It’s always nice to prepare, but you’ll end up overpacking and driving yourself crazy if you try to prepare for everything. I would recommend you look up hospitals that are near your destination that manage pediatric patients.

What should parents do to prepare if the child has special needs?

It depends on the need. Obviously if it’s medical special needs, be sure you have a list of diagnosis, medications, allergies and immunizations on a medical card that is easily available in the event you would need it.  

Also, having an emergency medical travel plan given by your provider managing your child is very helpful. That piece of paper would be presented to any provider who would have to see your child in the event of emergency. That document should have your child’s name, date of birth, diagnosis and emergency treatment plan. This helps keep the care consistent even though the place, provider and hospital have changed.  

If your child is immunocompromised, consult your primary doctor before traveling to assess the risks. 

You mentioned medical needs. Are there other needs to consider?

Absolutely, any child with developmental needs would need different considerations. If the child is on the autism spectrum, trying to keep the sensory stimulation the same and minimizing annoying triggers is ideal. Consider whatever blanket, fabric, noise, etc., that you would need to have handy to make sure he/she remains comfortable with so many other changes. If you are in the middle of any therapy such as speech, OT/PT, speak with your therapist about having a virtual session while traveling so that you can stay on track and keep that consistency going.

Anything else?

This may seem odd and very specific but when kids of any age are out of their routine and eating a completely different diet, they are prone to constipation. Being that abdominal pain is one of the most common reasons to visit an emergency department, consider this when traveling. Nobody wants to go to an emergency department in a place they don’t know. Consider a pediatric stool softener when traveling or make sure your child drinks enough water and eats high fiber diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables if there are no contraindications.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Ebony Hunter, M.D. 

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