By Dr. JJ Levenstein, M.D., FAAP
While traveling with baby can make a summer vacation all the more enjoyable, it can also require an entirely separate “to-do” list. After all, little ones need a little extra care when venturing to a new place. Before you board the plane or pack up the family roadster, here are some of the tips I share with patients in my pediatrics practice to help ensure safe, fun and fuss-free summer travel.
Make sure baby is ‘of age.’ It’s technically safe for baby to travel after the first two weeks of life. At two weeks baby’s heart and lungs have established a more mature circulation, and, unless baby has heart or lung disease, an immune deficiency or other serious health problem, air travel should be reasonably safe. That said, I don’t advise parents to travel with a very young baby unless they have appropriate health care and communication readily available in the event of an emergency.
Get a health check. It’s best to wait until baby has been vaccinated before traveling. Since some vaccines necessary for travel are dependent on location, check with your pediatrician and the CDC Web site (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel) for more specific information. Fortunately, airborne illnesses are less common during spring and summer, making this season one of the safest times to travel.
Pack for baby. I suggest that parents prepare (and pack) for the unexpected. Cover your bases with the following list of health and personal care items:
- For cuts and scrapes: Neosporin, Polysporin, or an equivalent first aid ointment
- For fever or other pain: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- For allergic reaction or hives: Benadryl (diphenhydramine) Liquid
- For bug bites: Over-the-counter hydrocortisone or anti-itch/calming cream
- For prevention of swimmer’s ear: Rubbing alcohol or white vinegar to drop in your little one’s ears
- For infection (if traveling overseas): An emergency packable antibiotic (talk with your pediatrician to determine which one is most appropriate)
- For vomiting or diarrhea: A powdered electrolyte to add to bottled water
- For sun protection: Physical sunscreen towelettes that are easy to apply on the go and begin working immediately upon application (such as MD Moms Babysafe Sunscreen Towelettes)
- For germ protection: MD Moms Cleansing Towelettes Travel Pack to wash your little one’s hands on the go in the absence of soap and water.
For air travel, remember that current regulations allow for 3.4-ounce bottles of creams, lotions or gels in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag as carry-on items. Visit the TSA Web site (www.tsa.gov) prior to departure to avoid unnecessary delays at the security checkpoint.
Keep your little one safe and comfortable. A comfortable baby makes a happy traveler. Dress baby in her favorite pajamas whenever possible. For air travel, keep baby’s shoes on for the entire journey to help prevent stepping on sharp objects found in airplanes and airports. Make sure your little one also travels safely in a car seat while on the road or in the air (she’ll need an FAA-approved seat for air travel). Also pack comfort items: a pacifier and blanket are essential for baby, and older children will appreciate a few light snacks, story books, or a favorite packable toy or stuffed animal.
Prepare for takeoff (and landing). When traveling by plane, arrive early at the airport and find a quiet corner for your child to nap before your flight. Also, letting baby nurse or suck on a bottle during take offs and landings will help reduce discomfort associated with middle ear pressure changes. If you’re changing time zones, keep your child on her “home” time schedule until you arrive at your destination. On the return leg, keep baby on regular naps and find a consistent place for her to sleep.
Once you’ve crossed these items off of your “to-do” list, you can focus on making memories with your little one from the trip’s start to finish.
Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics with a private pediatric practice in Encino, Calif. She serves on the clinical staff of two hospitals and has been voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2004 through 2010. Drawing on her experience as a pediatrician and mother, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, maker of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms.