When your child is sick on vacation


What if your kids get sick on vacation?

We found the answer to this dreaded question on our most recent trip—the Captain’s first cross-country flight and his first visit to Disneyland.

It’s scary as a parent, because it quickly sinks in: Your baby is sick and you’re away from the people you carefully chose and trust to care for your family in these circumstances. You’re also away from most of the tools you’d normally rely on to comfort him or her. You have to snuggle up in a strange bed, find a convenience store to stock up on fluids, and pray that room service offers chicken soup.

Time is of the essence, and it’s one of those situations where what you have in your mom bag of tricks actually matters. Most things you can just go out and buy if you didn’t pack what you need. But bringing along emergency medical supplies means no one has to go out hunting for them in the middle of the night—when, inconveniently, you know your kid is most likely to have issues. Granted, hauling around preemptive sick-supplies adds to the pack-mule vibe for vacationing parents, but having what you need right on hand when your little one spikes a fever or has an unexpected allergic reaction is worth its weight in your carry-on.

There are a few items, no matter how light we need to travel, I never leave home without. Just keep in mind the liquid rules on flights, and pack chewables when necessary.

  1. A good thermometer and covers
  2. Children’s acetaminophen
  3. Children’s Motrin
  4. Children’s Benadryl
  5. Neosporin and bandages —because he often has mystery boo-boos that need to be cleaned, excavated and covered
  6. Antacid/Pepto
  7. Antibacterial wipes

We spent one magical day at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park, with a handful of moments where our 4-year-old son seemed a bit overheated, red-faced, and unusually irritable. We chalked it up to overstimulation and dehydration, so we took breaks in the air-conditioned Flo’s V8 Cafe, bought slush and waters, and  took it in stride.

The Captain, despite his best efforts to enjoy our vacation, just wasn’t feeling like himself. MYLIFELIST PHOTO BY SHELAGH BRALEY

That night back at our hotel, after a cool bath, I realized he was still not normal, so I took his temperature. 101.7.

Disney Disaster.

I wrapped his neck in a cool, wet hand towel packed with some ice from the ice machine, and monitored him through the night. I was hoping it was just a quick bug that would pass by morning, but the hotter he got, the more I recognized the symptoms—double ear infection. He had been pulling on them the past few days, which I attributed to swimmer’s ear, or travel at altitude.

But the telltale fever out of nowhere? Historically, for our family, there’s no escaping that without antibiotics. (Sure, Captain, add a little more adventure to our travels. I love a challenge.)

Being in Anaheim, we knew there had to be clinics that catered to the millions of families that travel to the area each year. A quick internet search showed a few options in our close proximity, one of which was a CVS Minute Clinic within a mile.

We packed up the fam into the rental Tahoe and headed over. It was scheduled to open at 10, so we only had a short wait. In the meantime, we stocked up on more children’s acetaminophen—Captain likes the grape chewables.

After a brief intake to gather a cursory medical history and assess his vitals, Dorothy, the nurse practitioner, examined him. She immediately identified his poor red eardrums and prescribed a five-day course of liquid Zithromax. The pharmacist filled that scrip at the speed of light, and after a quick $20 payment, we were on our way again.

Conveniently, they also sold stuffed Mickey Mouses in the store. That made the patient feel much better.

Saturday, I got a phone call from Dorothy, the same nurse practitioner who saw him the day before. She wanted to check on the Captain’s progress and be sure we didn’t have questions or need follow-up care.

By Sunday, he was feeling like himself again, eating, cannonballing in the pool, and wreaking loud havoc on another hotel room in another state.

And with that, it was back to our regularly scheduled vacation fun.

Shelagh Braley is a Boston-based luxury/adventure travel journalist. She and her life-listing husband, teen and preschooler share their REAL tales of finding the awesome as they travel together. Come along with us. #mylifelist #findwhatmatters 

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