Q. “We are traveling with our six-month-old and two-and-a-half year-old sons. We’ll be “on the road” for over two weeks and would like to take a medical kit with us. Can you recommend a few medicines and remedies?”
A. I get asked this question a lot. First, a few words of caution: All medicines, even over-the-counter drugs and natural remedies, have side effects and it’s always a good idea to call your pediatrician—even from “the road”—if your child’s symptoms are worrisome.
In the following list, I’ll be using brand names to make things easier. When you shop, you can also find generic and store-brands, too. For instance, “Tylenol” has many easy-to-find and often less expensive generics.
So, let’s start with Tylenol (acetaminophen) which reduces the pain of teething and the fevers of mild viral illnesses. There are two good reasons to use Tylenol: relieving the discomfort of feverish toddlers allows them to eat, drink and sleep more readily and, secondly, it’s very difficult to evaluate a 102-degree child. When you reduce the fever, you have an hour’s “window” during which behavior and smiles should return to near normal.
If using this fever-reducer still doesn’t allow your child to smile, call your doctor.
The second tools in your “chest” contain saline solution. Weak salt water nasal spray helps on an airplane or when changing altitude on a car ride. Saline eyewash will get your child through mild conjunctivitis (“pink eye”) and help to flush out dust or other small foreign bodies in the eyes. Both of these can be purchased prepared from the drug store or convenience store or can be carefully homemade if you need to.
Stop at the health food store and pick up some “ear oil” which is a mixture of olive oil, mullein herbs and garlic. Mild ear pain can be soothed and I also use this as a first line treatment for ear infections. It works. (If there is discharge from the ear, call your doctor.)
While you’re at the health food store, you can shop for natural eyewashes, extra vitamin C and grapefruit seed extract. That last one, grapefruit seed extract, is a highly concentrated natural solution which can be diluted (a lot: 2-3 drops to an ounce of water) and used to disinfect everything from toothbrushes to superficial scrapes and cuts. (One brand name is Citricidal.)
Those scrapes and cuts can also be treated with Neosporin cream and, of course, always carry a few Band-Aids and maybe even little “butterfly” closures.
Benadryl (generic is diphenhydramine) is a strong, safe antihistamine which can help stop itching from poison ivy, bee stings and other mild allergic reactions. The mild sedating side effect has been used to good advantage by more than a few parents traveling by air with toddlers. Use your own judgment on that one and ask your doctor.
A decongestant like Pediacare or Dimetapp will help a stuffy toddler (or adult) through takeoff and landing. Be aware that most medicines in this category contain pseudophedrine or a similar stimulant and you may need to ask your doctor if it’s OK to give them to your child under age two years. Personally, in the right situation, I’m willing to give decongestants to kids between age one and two years but I ask the parents to calculate the dose carefully and then still decrease that dose by 50%.
Carry hydrocortisone cream for skin irritation or go back to the health food store for some “Egyptian Magic,” Traumeel or calendula for similar relief.
I am a big fan of homeopathic remedies including teething tablets, arnica for wounds and pain, pulsatilla for earaches and sinus congestion and Boiron’s “Cold Calm” for scratchy throats. I recommend Nux Vomica for tummy aches and also suggest weak “tummy teas” like peppermint and chamomile. I do NOT recommend anti-nausea suppositories for children or teens because they can mask the signs of serious illness. Persistent vomiting and stomach pain require a phone call or doctor visit.
Carry a little scissors and a tweezers for splinter removal. Carry “instant” ice and hot packs, too. The best immediate care of sprains and bad bruises is a cold pack, but the hot pack will help the injury heal later.
With the above, you’ll be prepared for minor wounds and mild ailments of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, skin, tummy or muscles.
Might I also compliment you on your bravery in traveling with two children at those ages. Carry lots of toys and books.