Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 Family Roadtrip Tips for Avoiding Sunburn, Altitude Sickness & Dehydration in Kids

by Janis Brett Elspas

For the past 10 days my four children and I have been traveling across America on an old-fashioned road trip.

Since leaving California a week ago Sunday we've driven over 2500 miles, traveling through 9 states so far with even more different climates. And we still have just less than 3 weeks to go before before returning home.

My girls are pictured above at a farm in Missouri. As you can see one of them is NOT wearing a hat, which is definitely a no-no when kids are outdoors.

Packing for a trip like this, that goes through so many different eco systems isn't as hard as you might think: just layer your clothes.  Making sure that your kids don't get sick from the sun, extreme heat (or cold) and major changes in altitudes while traveling, however, is something that is a bit more challenging to deal with.

These tips should maximize your chances of having a vacation to remember, not one that you wish you could forget. Uh oh, now BOTH of my boys (shown at an air & space museum in Oklahoma below) aren't wearing baseball caps.

Avoiding Sunburn
  • 1. Always apply sunblock that is a minimum of 30 SPF to ALL exposed areas of the body, except eyes etc. following the directions on the bottle
  • 2. Remember to use sunblock even when it is overcast and very cloudy. For example, here in Minnesota where we are right now the sky is gray but the health advisory today says you can burn in 20 minutes
  • 3. Reapply sunblock as often as needed, especially when there is high humidity (like we had in Oklahoma & Iowa), a lot of dry heat (such as Arizona), and whenever you are swimming, after a waterpark, or on a boat where there is exposure to water
Minimizing the Effects of Altitude Sickness
  • 4. If you will be headed to an area with extreme altitudes such as the Rockies in Colorado check with your doctor before traveling to see he/she has recommendations for medicine you might be able to take in advance.  Our family takes a drug called Diamox that really reduces headaches & nausea for us before going to the mountains during the summer as well as in winter when we go skiing.
  • 5. Don't forget, you need to apply A LOT of sunblock at high altitudes, so be sure to follow the 3 steps above for protection as the more intense UV rays you'll experience higher up.
  • 6. You may want to travel more slowly to give you and your kids a chance to adjust to major changes in altitude.
  • 7. Remember that the atmosphere is MUCH thinner at higher altitudes so exercise in moderation is always a good idea. This will help you avoid the altitude sickness symptoms above which also include muscle fatigue, shortness of breath, and even insomnia.
  • 8. Eat lightly and drink plenty of liquids (for more about that see tips of avoiding dehydration below).  For high altitudes drinking as much as 8-10 large glasses of water can make a big difference. For adults, limiting or avoiding drinking alchohol can also really help.
Fighting Dehydration
  • 9.  It's hard to believe, but even kids who say they are NOT thirsty can be hit hard with dehydration.  So, ere on the side of caution and make sure your children (and you) are drinking ALOT, even when your mouth doesn't feel dry.  In other words, force fluids. Extreme cases of dehydration can require hospitalization and people wandering around in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico have died recently because they had little or no water with them.
  • 10. Always carry MORE water than you think you'll need.  We always have at least a half gallon of water per person in the car and we refill those bottles whenever drinkable water is available at rest stops, museums, and motels.  Also, as mom or dad used to tell you, always wear a HAT when outside!
With these easy preventitive measures you can ensure that this will be a vacation that you and your children will remember for a lifetime.

Travel safely and feel free to leave your own advice for fighting sunburn, altitude sicknes, and/or dehydration.  Tell us about your favorite family vacation spots too.

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