Babies and small children are less able to fight off foodborne and waterborne infections. Little ones who are crawling or walking around and putting things in their mouths increase their exposure risk.
What comes from those infections? Yes, you knew we had to get there. We’re talking poo. The kind that makes you want to pay strangers good money to change an oozing diaper.
But, there are a few things we can do to help prevent the big D.
Breastfeeding helps eliminate foodborne and waterborne transmission to infants.
Use purified water for drinking, ice cubes, formula, brushing teeth, washing food if eating food raw, or just anytime you’d use water. Purify the water, unless you know the water source is safe.
Wash hands with soap and water frequently each day and certainly before eating anything and before preparing foods, after changing diapers, after going to the restroom, after coming in from outdoor activities (this includes shopping!), when you get up in the morning and before going to bed at night. Use soap and water if available and always when you can see any grime on the hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used to help disinfect your hands.
Pacifiers and other items made to go into a baby’s mouth that you bring or buy on the trip need frequent cleaning.
Don’t eat food from street vendors. Make sure all your food is either cooked thoroughly or washed with purified water and, if applicable, peeled.
Dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting
Infants and young children can easily become dehydrated due to diarrhea and vomiting. They need plenty of liquids each time they have a watery stool or vomit. If you’re unaware of the signs of dehydration, you should read up on it prior to departure. Prevention is the best thing, but just in case, there are commercial oral rehydration solutions, or you can make your own. Here are some suggestions from rehydration.org:
Make sure the rehydration drink has in it starches and/or sugars, a little sodium and some potassium. Breastmilk is great for those nursing, or watery cooked cereal, carrot soup, or rice water is fine as long as they’re made with purified water.
You can make a simple solution yourself by using salt and sugar (molasses, raw sugar or white sugar) and something like orange juice or mashed banana for potassium. Add one teaspoon of salt to eight teaspoons of sugar and stir into a liter of boiled and cooled water, stirring until everything is dissolved.
Fresh fruit juice, weak tea or even simply boiled and cooled water will help, if nothing else is available.
Parasites in the soil
There are parasites in sand and soil where children love to play. They should wear enclosed footwear and play on a tarp or covering. Don’t put clothing or towels on the ground to dry, and iron anything you hang out to dry before using. All of these precautions are dependent on your destination, of course.
Children are more likely to be bitten by animals yet less likely to tell parents about the bite. Remind the children to stay away from animals and to report any wound immediately. If a child is bitten or wounded, wash the area with soap and water and take the child in for evaluation. If possible, bring the animal in as well.
Water and infectious agents
Children and adults can pick up illnesses or infections by swallowing or simply being in contact with contaminated water. If you don’t know the area, don’t swim in fresh, unchlorinated water and, depending on where you travel, be careful with washing in the bathtub.
Well, that’s about it. We’ve come to the end of our Travel in Good Health series. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and, hey, maybe we’ll meet you on the road somewhere and do some trading. Ten diapers for a barf bag? Anybody?