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Kids will get into scrapes on trips too: Pack a first-aid kit

June 19, 2005|Kathleen Doheny | Special to The Times

This summer, more than a third of U.S. travelers will take children along on their longest trip, according to the Travel Industry Assn. of America.

As parents and grandparents know, where there are kids there are bound to be scrapes, cuts, tummy aches, sunburns and other mini-emergencies. When you're on the road, having first-aid supplies handy can make the difference between spending time at the nearest urgent-care center or treating the malady yourself.

A basic first-aid kit for domestic travelers should include a first-aid manual, sterile gauze, adhesive tape, bandages in several sizes, an ice wrap, tweezers, scissors, antibiotic cream or triple-antibiotic ointment (such as Neosporin), antiseptic, 1% hydrocortisone cream, alcohol wipes and a thermometer, along with acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain, suggests Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, who also practices in Westlake Village.

Acetaminophen should be in liquid form if your kids are very young, says Dr. Paul S. Horowitz, medical director of the pediatric and adolescent clinic at Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital in Sacramento, and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Alcohol-based gel cleansers or antibacterial hand cleaners are also good additions to a basic first-aid kit.

For young travelers with motion sickness, consider packing an over-the counter remedy, says Dr. Mark D. Widome, a professor of pediatrics at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey, Pa.

"If they're under the age of 2, check with the pediatrician first" before using any motion sickness medications, he says.

If you're camping, add mosquito repellents to guard against West Nile virus. Ask your pediatrician which repellent to use. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that repellents with DEET and those with picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are effective.

Add Benadryl cream or gel, which can provide relief from itching. Take calamine lotion, Widome suggests, in case of poison ivy or oak.

For sunny destinations, be sure to take sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics. Babies 6 months and younger should be kept out of direct sunlight, the academy says.

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating, Altmann says. If your kids get sunburned, try cold compresses, acetaminophen or aloe vera gel.

For foreign travel, taking antibiotics to prevent diarrhea or other ailments is as controversial for children as it is for adults, says Widome. "Follow the advice of your pediatrician," he says.

If you're too swamped to assemble a kit yourself, the American Red Cross sells one online for $19.95 at

It includes most of the materials and medications suggested by the pediatricians; note that it includes aspirin, which shouldn't be given to children younger than 16 for fever and pain, Altmann says. Aspirin use for young children has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a potentially lethal disorder. Travelers with infants age 6 months and younger should get advice from their pediatricians on treating fever.

Pack your pediatrician's and pharmacist's phone numbers, as well as your child's immunization record, experts suggest. You might save time and worry by just calling your health provider first in the event of an illness or accident.


Healthy Traveler appears every other week. Kathleen Doheny can be reached at

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