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Get a EHIC card for everyone in the family. They are free, and ensure you receive medical treatment in reciprocating EU countries. Make sure you pack a decent first aid kit and research any particular health issues that may be relevant in your destination country; the FCO website is excellent for this.

Insect bites

Avoid being bitten! Here at KTC and GTC we will only use DEET free insect repellents as a matter of principle, as it was invented as a plastic solvent and has been banned as a carcinogen in a number of US States. However, it maybe your only safe option in some malarial zones so please consult your doctor.

Some people react badly to bites and stings and may need medical treatment although your average bite or sting can be soothed with a smear of Tiger Balm or a squeeze of lemon juice. Ant and bee stings are acidic, and so need to be neutralized with baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) dissolved in a little bit of water. Wasp stings are alkali, so dabbing liberally with vinegar will help (remember, bicarb for bees, vinegar for vasps!).

Ice cubes applied to the bite or sting may also take away pain or itching, as will a smear of toothpaste. Obviously the best thing you can do is avoid being stung or bitten in the first place so make sure everyone wears long sleeves, long skirts or trousers after dusk, and is wearing insect repellent.

  • Buy some anti-mozzy coils to burn if you want to sit out after dusk.
  • Don't leave the light on in your room if you're going out as you could come back to something that looks like a dogfight from WWII. 

Jetlag and Insomnia

Try and acclimatize everyone to your new time zone as soon as you get on the plane. Dehydration exacerbates the symptoms of jetlag so make sure you drink plenty of fluid. Babies can take longer to get used to new sleep routines than adults and older children so make allowances for a grizzly, grumpy baba!

To help children sleep, add a couple of drops of lavender oil to a warm bath, adding one of those little pots of milk from the tea/coffee tray to help the oil emulsify. Lettuce sandwiches are often surprisingly effective  if you are in an area where lettuce is safe to eat, as is a bath with a couple of chamomile teabags thrown in, followed by a cup of chamomile tea.

Travel Sickness, Nausea

Slowly nibbling a ginger biscuit works wonders, as does sucking a piece of crystallised ginger. Kids might not want to eat the ginger but they like to suck the sugar off and this seems to work just as well.

  • Avoid strong food odours and spicy flavours.
  • Don't  encourage children to read, instead get them to concentrate on the horizon and if possible listen to a story tape on their walkman or i-pod.
  • Don't sit facing backwards against the direction of travel. If possible sit in the front seat of the car.
  • Keep the windows open, or stay close to fresh air.
  • Stay away from other people who are prone to motion-sickness; hearing them talk about it is never helpful!
  • Find a seat near the middle of the airplane over the wing, as this will experience the least motion.
  • If you are on a ship, lower level cabins in the centre generally are more stable than those higher up, fore or aft.
  • Pack a couple of Queazy bags. If anybody is unfortunate enough to be unwell, crystals in the bag will swell up to contain everything safely, then the bag can be safely sealed and stowed away until it can be disposed of safely. No smell, no leaks, no fuss!

Homeopathy

Seek advice from your local homeopath for more detail, but here are a couple of remedies I have found invaluable for travelling, even when my son was a tiny baby…

Cocculus. Helps reset the body clock and restore disrupted sleep patterns.

Arnica. Excellent for jetlag and fear of flying as well as bruises and shocks. 

Camomilla. Great for grumpy kids on long journeys, as well as teething issues.

Nux vomica. Good for kids and adults who are suffering the after effects of over-indulging, whether it be ice-cream or sangria!

Hypericum. Helps relieve the itch of insect bites.

Arsen alb. Excellent for vomiting and upset tummies in children.

Mag phos. The homeopathic equivalent of aspirin, for headaches and general aches and pains.

Upset tummies

There are a number of things you can do to minimise the risk of an upset tummy, the most important of which is to only drink bottled water when in less developed countries; ice can often be safe in the better tourist class hotels but you must use your own judgment. Even in smaller cafes or guesthouses, if it’s the round kind with the hole in it will have been produced in a factory and therefore should be more risk-free., but if you’re in doubt, don’t risk it!

There is also a traveller’s adage which is useful to remember; “either peel it, boil it, cook it, or forget it.” This doesn’t really apply in places like Australia, but makes remarkably good sense in Asia, Africa, Tunisia etc., when you remember that the fields and crops may well be irrigated with untreated water, and therefore contaminated by sewage.

A spoonful of natural yoghurt every day is supposed to help one’s stomach ward off all kinds of nasties, and my mum swears by putting a teaspoon of cider vinegar in her water bottle every time she refills it with more bottled water (this trick has seen her journey all over remotest Africa with no tummy problems whatsoever). Should you or your children be unfortunate enough to get an upset tummy, it’s not a good idea to take Imodium unless you absolutely must travel, as this just blocks the problem up inside you temporarily. It is far better to let nature take its course, as you’ll recover much more quickly in the end. However children dehydrate far more quickly than adults so it is essential you seek medical advice urgently if the problem persists more than 24 hours.

Once affected,  encourage your child to stick to dry biscuits, plain boiled rice, peeled grated apple if they can manage it, and drink plenty of fluids. Take rehydration salts and get lots of rest. (I’ve never managed to drink the rehydration salts just because they taste so horrible; an alternative treatment is to mix a cup of cold black tea with an equal amount of flat coca-cola (the full-fat kind, not diet). The caffeine acts as a pick-me-up while the sugar gives you an energy boost, and it actually tastes quite pleasant).

Camomile tea is also useful in alleviating the symptoms of an upset tummy. For problems of a more windy kind or belchy kind, stir some powdered cinammon or a pinch of nutmeg into warm milk; trapped wind is often relieved by sipping a mugful of hot water slowly.

Many holidaymakers may get a dodgy tummy at some point or other, but be warned that it can occasionally be a sign of serious diseases so if it lasts for more than two days, has unusual symptoms (i.e. blood or mucus), is accompanied by a fever, acute dehydration or becomes unbearably bad it is time to seek medical advice urgently. Once again please ask your doctor for advice before departure.

Rules to remember for all the family

  • Wash and dry your hands every time you eat or drink; use a hand sanitizer, especially before and after using the serving spoons in hotel buffets.
  • Drink only sealed bottled water, fizzy drinks, tea and coffee; beer and wine should also be fine (check the seals on water bottles carefully, sometimes unscrupulous sellers simply refill empty bottles with tap water).
  • Look at the state of the restaurant you’re eating in and use your common sense; if the waiters appear to have dirty hands and there are flies everywhere, do you really want to eat there?
  • Avoid soft cheeses, ice cream or unpasteurized dairy products in risk areas.
  • Shellfish can be hazardous, even if cooked; avoid it if there’s a chance it might have been sitting in the sun all day or might have been caught in an area with a high risk of sewage.
  • Avoid food (particularly buffets) where food may have been kept warm for long periods or reheated. Rice is particularly notorious for developing a bacterium that cannot be destroyed by reheating or reboiling.
  • Wash all fruit in bottled water, and only brush your teeth in bottled water too.
  • Make sure your children don’t drink too much pool water!

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