A Pediatrician’s Family Vacation Packing Checklist: What You Need When Traveling with Kids

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Health Tip of the Week

Two kids packing a suitcase It’s that time of the year again to transition from packing your kids’ school lunch to packing their bags for travel. And while you can’t take a pediatrician with you on your trip, you can take their advice on packing for it.

How do I pack for vacation with kids?

Anjuli S. Gans, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at CHOP’s Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia and mom of two young boys, stresses the importance of sun care products to protect your child's skin: “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends sunscreen for babies six months or older. For younger babies, you can bring protective clothing like rash guards and hats with wide brims. As a bonus, mineral sunscreens that have zinc oxide as their sole ingredient can double as diaper ointment if you're in a jam!”

But sunscreen isn’t the only thing that protects skin. Another must-have for travel with kids is a simple emollient, like Vaseline or Aquaphor. “It's an all-in-one product that treats things like sunburn, eczema flares, diaper rash and chapped lips,” Dr. Gans explains. She also suggests to “pack a variety of different-sized bandages in case of cuts and scrapes.”

Julie Kardos, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at CHOP Primary Care, Newtown and mom of three, recommends a topical antibiotic for preventing infection in deep cuts. If needed, she reminds parents to apply daily after thoroughly cleaning the wound with soap and water.

When that’s not enough, some over the counter (OTC) Hydrocortisone 1% has you covered for “anything itchy on skin, like insect bites or eczema flares,” according to Dr. Kardos.

What else do you need when traveling with children?

“If your child gets dehydrated from the heat or catches a stomach bug while you're away, oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte can save a trip to the Emergency Room,” says Dr. Gans. “They also make powder packets, perfect for travel first aid kits.”

Naline Lai, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at CHOP Primary Care, Doylestown and mom of three, is especially a fan of the powdered variety: “When the new, interesting dishes do not agree with the tummy or there is traveler’s diarrhea, electrolyte powder will help the entire family rehydrate. All you need is a bottle of water to reconstitute.”

What medicine to take for kids when traveling?

“Allergic reactions can come at unexpected times — having the right tools on hand will help parents confidently care for their kids in case of a mild allergic reaction,” warns Dr. Gans. “Talk with your care team about the best children's antihistamine and dosing for your child before you go.”

Chiming in on that, Dr. Lai sings the praises of diphenhydramine (Benadryl): “It is good for all things that cause itchiness, including allergic reactions or reactions to poisonous plants. For older kids, it may help with time changes as it tends to make them sleepy. The CDC even lists it as helpful for motion sickness.” Additionally, Dr. Lai advises to “carry along an EpiPen if you have one” as part of your travel medicine kit.

In the event of a high fever, injury or other emergencies, Dr. Kardos assures us that “it is safe to use pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) while you figure out which urgent care or ER you might end up taking your child to.” They are also suitable for use on “ear pain, sore throat, headache or mouth sores.”

How do I pack my child for a long trip?

Last but not least, make sure you have a clean-up plan for when nature calls and disaster strikes. “Gallon Ziploc bags are good for storing clothing that was vomited on, underwear after accidents or clothes that got wet in rain or spills. Or they can be used as barf bags,” proposes Dr. Kardos — because messes come in all shapes and sizes.

Contributing Experts: Anjuli S. Gans, MD, FAAP; Julie Kardos, MD, FAAP; Naline Lai, MD, FAAP; Katie K. Lockwood, MD, MEd; Lovelle McFadden-Parsi, DO, FAAP

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