Keeping Kids Well On the Road
Published: June 2009
By Nima Isham
Coping With Altitude
Santa Fe, Denver, Lake Tahoe, Mexico City, Yosemite National Park, most resorts in the Rockies—they're all more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The higher you go, the thinner the air is. Children and teenagers are more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults. The symptoms are the same: nausea, lethargy, headaches, lack of appetite, difficulty breathing, and sleeplessness. Kids should engage in mild exercise the first day and drink plenty of liquids. Many moms swear by the "banana a day" rule—bananas boost potassium levels and help ease stomach upset. If symptoms are severe you may want to ask your doctor about Diamox.
Keep kids distracted during a car ride, but don't let them read. A skin patch of scopolamine (prescription: Transderm-scop) applied behind the ear four hours before departure lasts up to three days. Over-the-counter drugs—Bonine, Marezine, Dramamine, Benadryl—can help, too, but check with your pediatrician before giving them to any child under 12. On the road, an older carsick child should sit in the front seat; younger kids up high on a cushion in the back, looking forward at a distant point, not out a side window. Allow plenty of fresh air to circulate. Ginger candy or tablets may also provide relief.
In the tropics, coral cuts can easily become infected, and because coral is brittle it may break off inside the wound. Use tweezers to pull out any particles, wash the cut well with soap and water, and apply witch hazel to ease the sting. Stuck with a sea urchin spine?Extract as much as you can with tweezers, wash the area, and treat with a topical antibiotic such as Bacitracin. If you or your child is stung by a jellyfish, act right away. To neutralize toxins, rinse the area immediately with seawater—don't use vinegar or alcohol, since these tend to discharge the stingers. Then lift off any clinging tentacle fragments (do not drag them across the skin). Protect your hand with a cloth or glove, because the tentacles can sting even when no longer attached to the jellyfish. Long, red weals like whip marks will develop. Relieve the pain by applying Adolph's meat tenderizer (or any other brand with papain, a papaya enzyme)—but don't rub it in. Fresh papaya works, too.
Safe, Not Sorry
• Zinc oxide offers both broad-spectrum protection from the sun's rays and a physical sunblock—instead of relying on chemicals absorbed by the skin. The ointment has come a long way from that gluey white paste smeared on lifeguards' noses. Later it appeared in bright neon colors, and now . . . it's transparent. Light, greaseless, and sheer, it's the best all-around protection, and many total-block products now use the magic ingredient. Try the ones made by Iguana Kids, SkinCeuticals, or Basis.
• Avon's Skin So Soft with SPF 15 or SPF 30 now provides sun protection and insect repellent (without deet) in one.
• The latest lightweight bike helmets (ProRider and Specialized make great varieties) are relatively low-cost and well ventilated, and they come in great colors—so no more excuses. More than 100 American kids suffered fatal head injuries in bicycle accidents last year; wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of such an injury by 85 percent.
• secret weapon: baking soda
--Soothes a skin rash—sprinkle two tablespoons into a bath.
--Relieves a sunburn—add water and apply directly to skin.
--Takes the pain out of bee stings and other insect bites—daub on a sodium bicarbonate paste.