Travel Troubles

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Masha Shonia holds a souvenir from her trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Masha Shonia's spider bite is now a family legend - one of many stories from their trip out west. But at the time, it was a scare that Bexley mom Olga Shonia will never forget.

"We were in the middle of the trip of our lives. I was so stressed," Shonia recalled. "Even after I took her to an urgent care, I still worried."

Families who travel are likely to experience an injury or illness at some point when they're away from home. Traveling with a sick child can be nerve-racking, and sometimes requires adjusting the itinerary. But a little pre-vacation planning can make such experiences less traumatic, said Zach Fisher, director of travel sales for AAA Ohio Auto Club.

"No matter where you may be planning to roam on your next trip, it is always a best practice to plan ahead for what to do if there is a health issue while traveling," he said. "By taking just a few minutes to lay out a plan, it will allow you to be more relaxed on the trip itself because you are prepared."

In addition to carrying health insurance information, Fisher suggests taking contact numbers for each family member's doctors. "Traveling with a copy of your child's medical history and your own is a good idea," he added.

While illness can be more stressful when traveling, parents often can deal with it just as they would at home, said Dr. Katherine Krueck, who serves on the board of directors for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"The very first question to ask yourself is, how does your child appear to be feeling?If the answer is fine, take a deep breath and relax," said Krueck, the medical director for Pediatric Associates, a practice with multiple central Ohio locations. "Most childhood illnesses are harmless and resolve without any specific treatment. Kids are really good at showing us how sick they are by their actions.If they are playing and eating, there is absolutely no reason to worry."

However, if a child experiences severe ear or throat pain, persistent fever or persistent pain from an injury, Krueck recommends visiting an urgent-care facility. Persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, difficulty breathing or serious head injury warrant a trip to the emergency room, she said.

If there's any doubt, try calling your pediatrician's office. They likely will be receptive to your concerns and may recommend what to do next, Krueck said.

"Just know that that conversation is going to be more triage than treatment," she said. "They'll tell you over the phone that you do need to be seen or don't need to be seen. A lot of times, just having that conversation makes a difference."

Travelers who are vacationing stateside usually will have the option of going to an urgent care or emergency room. Things might get more complicated when traveling abroad.

"Manyforeign hospitals and doctors will not accept credit cards for payments of services. They accept cash only," Fisher said.

Also, many health insurance policies don't provide coverage outside the United States. Fisher recommends calling insurance providers prior to departure to see if your family will be covered.

"If your current health insurance provider does not cover outside of the USA, we suggest you find additional coverages that will protect you as well as your assets,"he said. AAA offers short-term medical policies, as do some health insurers, credit card companies and independent providers.

Fortunately for Shonia and her husband, Giorgi, insurance wasn't an issue during the family's 2015 trek to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. Their provider covered Masha's visit to the urgent care as well as a later trip to the emergency room when her mother was concerned the bite wasn't healing.

The family is fairly certain that Masha, now 10, got bit at a hotel in Le Claire, Iowa-the first stop on their two-week trip. She and her mother saw a spider when she got out of the bed, though Masha didn't notice getting bitten. However, the next day she had a swollen red mark on the back of her thigh. "When I asked her about it, she told me that it didn't hurt, but it bothered (her) a little while she was sitting in the car," Shonia said.

When the swelling got worse, the family sought medical attention. A doctor at the urgent care prescribed antibiotics, and Masha was able to enjoy the rest of the vacation.

"Now it's one of the stories we tell about the trip," Shonia said. "She tells people she survived a spider bite."

Things to consider if your child is not able to play or eat while traveling:

1. Most rashes are harmless and not contagious. If a child is sick in other ways, consider visiting an urgent care. Most doctors will want to see a rash to make a diagnosis, though most rashes do not respond to any treatment.

2. Cold symptoms and coughs are rarely more than a simple virus. Over-the-counter medications are not recommended as they usually are not helpful and often not safe, particularly in young children.

3. Fever is a sign of infection. It is often viral, though it can be bacterial. Fever is not harmful and is the body's attempt to limit infection by raising the temperature to kill viruses and bacteria. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can be used to make a child more comfortable, but they are not essential. If a child is comfortable with or without fever-reducing medication, there is no reason to worry.

4. Most diarrhea is viral, and there is no safe or effective medicine to treat it. As long as a child is acting well otherwise, diarrhea can be treated with clear fluids in small amounts given frequently.Pedialyte, Gatorade, ice pops and ice chips all work well.

Source: Dr. Katherine Krueck

Here are some suggestions from AAA on traveling abroad with children.

When to carry consent:If a grandparent or just one parent is traveling out of the country with a minor child, carrying consent forms is wise. U.S. Customs and Border Protection "strongly recommends" that any child traveling without both custodial parents carry proof of the parents' consent to travel. This also would include permissionfor medical treatment.

Food and food-related allergies: While trying new foods is part of the excitement of traveling to foreign countries, some items can quickly upset a child's stomach if he is not used to them. If a child has allergies, learn the foreign word for these foods (for example, "peanut" is "arachide" in Italian).

Vaccinations: Different countries have specific requirements for immunizations. Go to to see the recommendations for your destination. Some vaccinations require more than one dose or take a while to become effective, so don't wait until the last minute.

Rest: Long-distance travel can upset bedtime routines, so allow time for children and adults to rest. Jet lag is possible no matter the distance traveled, so try to get plenty of rest several days prior to departure and stay hydrated while traveling.