Travel tips

Dr Ranj: being prepared for serious injury on holiday

Last updated 5th October 2017

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, but being prepared for serious injury on holiday with little ones is vital. Family Traveller’s inhouse doctor, Dr Ranj, gives us his top tips

1/5 Bites

Insect bites are common, especially in warmer climates. Most just cause local irritation, helped with antihistamine cream or medication. However, they can carry the risk of infection: either at the time of the bite (e.g. mosquito bites transmitting malaria or dengue fever) or developing as a secondary skin infection later. The former can be prevented by being savvy about where you go and using mosquito nets and insect-repellant creams, and covering up. The latter you have to watch out for: if a bite grows redder, swollen, discharges fluid or your child develops a fever, they may be developing a skin infection. This may require antibiotics.

One note for bites that leave a sting in the wound (e.g. tic bites): try not to squeeze the sting as it may release more harmful material. Instead, gently scrape it out with the edge of a credit card. If your child develops a rash or becomes unwell, get them checked, as this could be a sign of infection (in the case of tic bites, this could be a sign of Lyme disease). Animal bites require cleaning and antibiotics. If in a high-risk area, antirabies treatment may also be necessary.

2/5 Burns

Burns cause thermal damage to the skin tissues and can result in long-term scarring. The immediate treatment is to cool the area by running it under cool water for at least 20 minutes. Try not to put ice on a burn as this causes more discomfort. There is no need to put anything else on burns either, despite what the internet might tell you! If it looks bad and you need help, cover it in clingfilm and go to a medical facility. Any burn if it involves the face, hands or genitals, or if the child becomes unwell, should be checked.

3/5 Breaks

It’s really not unusual for children to fall over, and occasionally they will sustain a broken bone, or fracture. If you think your child has had such an injury, they will definitely need to see a doctor and may require an operation to repair it. The best thing you can do while getting them to hospital is to immobilise the area (keep it still by wrapping it or putting it in a sling) and give them some painkillers.

4/5 Bumps

Children bump themselves all the time, mostly with no problems. However, with head bumps, you should seek medical help if: the injury looks serious, if they lose consciousness, if they have a wound, if they are persistently drowsy, if they are vomiting, if they have abnormal movements or behaviour, or if they are young (especially under one). Most head injuries are minor and will not require investigation.

5/5 Breathing problems

Breathing problems can be induced by allergic reactions. If you think this is happening (it may be accompanied by a rash, facial swelling or itching), give your child an antihistamine and get them to a hospital. If they have known allergies and an adrenaline pen, make sure you know how to use it. Asthma attacks can also cause serious breathing difficulty, and sadly still result in the death of too many children.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your child has their asthma medication with them at all times, and knows how to use their inhaler when needed. An individual asthma action plan is vital and you can get these from your doctor, asthma clinic or download it from the Asthma UK website. If the attack is severe, call an ambulance and get to hospital ASAP.

  •  Call for help
  • If they can cough,
    encourage them to do so
  • Don’t put your fingers in their
    mouth as this might make the
    problem worse
  • If they can’t cough, alternate
    5 back slops between the shoulder
    blades with either 5 chest thrusts
    (under a year) or abdominal thrusts
    (over a year) until the object is
    coughed up
  • If they lose consciousness or
    stop breathing, start CPR and
    make sure someone has called
    an ambulance