Other Germ-Fighting Travel Tips
- Hotels. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System found that when people with colds stayed overnight in hotel rooms, many surfaces remained contaminated with rhinovirus for at least a day. So how concerned should you be? "Most hotel rooms are better cleaned than most homes," Starke tells WebMD. "The towels and sheets are changed daily, and the room is cleaned somewhat every day." Still, some experts suggest wiping down remote controls, light switches, telephones, doorknobs, toilet seat handles, faucet handles, and other high-touch areas as a precaution when traveling with children.
- Amusement parks. Be careful what you eat. Avoid food that may have been sitting out for a long time. Since you can't wipe down germy surfaces at amusement parks, hand hygiene is especially important.
- Swimming pools and water parks. Have kids rinse off before and after taking the plunge at pools and water parks. These can be breeding grounds for pinkeye (conjunctivitis), skin viruses, and cryptosporidium and giardia, which cause diarrhea. "Chlorinating pools doesn't kill all harmful bacteria," Conway says. Also teach young children to avoid swallowing water in pools and water parks.
General Wellness Tips for Traveling Children
Too many treats, not enough sleep, and being on the go can wear down children's immunity. This can make them more vulnerable to illness. These strategies can help kids stay healthy on the road:
- Encourage children to drink liquids. "Adults tend to stay hydrated when traveling to boost their own immunity, but we often forget to have our children do the same," Conway says.
- Stick closely to your child's normal, healthy diet. This not only gives kids nutrients to help fight infection -- it can also help prevent diarrhea or constipation, which children are prone to when traveling. Consider bringing your kids' favorite healthy foods on road trips or airplanes instead of buying fast food or snacks. "I encourage this for the sanity of both parents and kids," Conway says, "but also to keep children's diets as close to normal as possible."
- Don't skimp on sleep. Sticking to your children's normal bedtime and naptime will help them sleep better. Packing favorite stuffed animals or blankets can also help children sleep in strange places, so they get enough rest.
Whatever strategies you use to keep harmful bacteria at bay, try to keep germs and illness in perspective. It's not uncommon for healthy children, especially under age 5, to get several colds a year -- and usually not from strangers on the road. "Being exposed to people with illnesses is part of life," Starke says. "And we tend to get infections most often from the people we love."