Our Cruise Is Approaching, But Our Children Are Sick! Now What?

Why am I writing this now?  Well, because, right now, as I write this, just about one week before our family goes on vacation, both of our boys have a cold, with stuffy and runny noses, and coughing.  They have also complained of ear pain, which we know can happen sometimes simply as a result of congestion, but can also happen if there is an ear infection. Their symptoms started developing on the weekend, so I am thankful that we had that opportunity to treat them at home without having to take days off from school, day care, and work, and without contaminating other people’s children. Nevertheless, with our next cruise around the corner, I called the doctor’s office this morning to try to get an appointment as soon as possible.  As there were no available appointment times that would work today, we got an appointment for later in the week.  As their symptoms are typical for children with colds, and thankfully, they are behaving like themselves, and their children’s cold medicines seem to work well to ease their symptoms during the days, there is no need to immediately rush to the doctor’s office or urgent care.  However, that is, of course, an option depending on the circumstances. 

Let’s start by stating the obvious: Our children’s health and well-being is far more important than any cruise or any other vacation.  We also know that “sick” has varying degrees, and that children are very resilient, and with appropriate care, they can overcome colds, the flu, and the like, fairly quickly.  That being said, no parent wants his or her child to be sick when it’s family vacation time.  The following tips are My Cruising Family’s suggested steps to take if your child appears to be sick before your vacation. 

Note: I am a mommy who has had to assess and decide on next steps before and during vacation when my children have been sick.  However, I am not a medical professional, and the tips outlines here are not at all meant to take the place of medical advice.  As a matter of fact, my first tip is to seek medical advice.


Contact Your Child’s Pediatrician Or Other Appropriate Medical Provider 

If your child starts showing signs of sickness and you are within a week or two of your vacation, My Cruising Family suggests that you schedule a doctor’s appointment for your child as soon as possible.  While, on an average day, when vacation is not yet in sight, you may allow the sniffles to go on without calling the doctor right away, you want to have your child’s pediatrician examine your child to assess whether he or she is well enough to take the scheduled trip.  Some may think that two weeks out is enough time to allow the common cold or other illness to take its course; however, My Cruising Family suggests contacting the pediatrician for two reasons:

1.    What if there is something more to be concerned about than what you are guessing is going on with your child and, as a result of that, you may need to see a specialist and/or have a follow-up appointment? 

2.       We all know what tends to happen in a house when one child is sick; anyone else in the household may become sick too. 

Therefore, in both cases, the sooner you can appropriately combat the sickness, the sooner your child will get well, and you can potentially prevent others from getting sick. 

At the doctor’s appointment, tell the doctor about your travel plans because you really should get more than the doctor’s diagnosis (and prescriptions/medications, if necessary), but also the doctor’s assessment on whether it is sound for your child to travel as planned.  Also, a doctor may assess that your child is healthy enough to travel, but may provide you with a prescription in case your child’s symptoms progress. 

The reason that My Cruising Family says “your child’s pediatrician or other appropriate medical provider” is that, sometimes, depending on the timing and location, your pediatrician may not be available or accessible when your child needs to be assessed and when you may need to make a decision on whether or not to travel.  Sometimes, children exhibit concerning symptoms on days in which the pediatrician’s office is closed, or maybe the pediatrician is away on vacation.  In those circumstances, you may be able to contact someone via the pediatric office’s emergency answering service, or you may take your child to urgent care or the emergency room.  In 2013, when we were in Orlando, Florida, for a cruise, and my then-2-year-old son started throwing up, prior to us boarding the cruise ship, my husband and I decided that as soon as we got onboard the ship, we would visit the cruise ship’s medical office to have our son assessed by medical personnel.  That assessment helped, as the ship’s medical personnel assessed our son, assured us that our son was fine to sail, and provided tips for what to do and what not to do so that our son could quickly recover. 


Purchase Travel Insurance 

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, then you know that My Cruising Family highly recommends purchasing travel insurance prior to traveling with children.  Some credit cards include travel insurance when used to purchase a trip, but if not already included in your travel purchase, I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance.  My Cruising Family suggests purchasing travel insurance at the time that you book your trip, or as soon as possible thereafter.  Pay attention to the details of what your insurance options are, and make sure that the insurance option that you choose includes sufficient medical coverage.  My Cruising Family likes using www.insuremytrip.com, which provides a wide range of insurance options at reasonable prices.  Having travel insurance provides flexibility and peace of mind, which are priceless. 


Travel With Medication 


This includes packing the medication in your luggage, of course, but also, making sure to have that medication nearby during the vacation itself.  For example: keep it in the diaper bag, or in your purse, handbag, backpack, or tote bag – basically, whatever bag you carry with you throughout the trip.  Even if your child is not sick prior to going on your trip, there are a number of items in the “medication” category that My Cruising Family recommends packing, including, but not limited to, prescribed medication, vitamins/probiotics, cold/flu medication, allergy medication, ibuprofen/acetaminophen, and topical medication and ointments. These can usually be found in TSA-compliant sizes (3.4 ounces or less), but if you have prescribed medication that is more than 3.4 ounces, you should remove the medication from your carry-on luggage at the TSA checkpoint and inform the TSA agent that you are traveling with medically necessary liquids.  I generally make sure that the medication is clearly labeled, and if available, I carry proof of the prescription. 


Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Again, even if your child is not sick, it is generally a good idea to hydrate.  If traveling with an infant or toddler, then liquids for feeding, such as milk, formula, water, and Pedialyte, in baby bottles or sippy cups, are allowed even if they exceed 3.4 ounces.  As with prescribed medication, you should remove the bottle or sippy cup containing the milk, formula, water, Pedialyte, or other liquid for feeding, from your carry-on luggage at the TSA checkpoint and inform the TSA agent that you are traveling with the liquid to feed the infant or toddler with whom you are traveling.  The container will go through additional screening. 


Have you learned any of these lessons the hard way?  Are there any other tips that you would like to share to help families deal with traveling with a sick child?