Top tips for when your baby falls ill on holiday

Children, Children & Family, Health

What to do when your baby gets sick on holiday

Travelling with a baby can be a handful in itself, but even worse if your little one falls ill. Make sure you are prepared with our top tips on holidaying with a sick baby.

Toothbrush, passport, change of clothes? Tick. Add nappies, clothes, toys, books, plus another hundred items and you might get close to the list of must-haves when you go away with your baby. The days of travelling light may seem a distant memory the first time you venture out on holiday with a newborn baby, and it’s common to feel the need to pack for all eventualities.

A sick baby is, unfortunately, one possibility that many parents need to plan for. Children, especially under the age of three, have a nasty habit of falling ill while you’re away. This is not a complete surprise, as toddlers will have seven or more fevers a year on average compared with three in older children and two in adults.

When a baby gets sick the most important thing they need is you. The smell, feel, and sound of Mum and Dad are the most soothing and reassuring things for babies, especially when they’re in unfamiliar surroundings, so be sure to keep your little one within touching distance if they do get poorly while you’re away.

When a baby gets sick the most important thing they need is you

What to pack

If you don’t already use a baby carrier, this could be a worthwhile addition to your holiday checklist. When you hold your baby close to your chest they can hear your heartbeat and feel your breath, giving much needed comfort if they’re not feeling well. There are some great designs around nowadays, to suit your lifestyle.

Baby carriers are a great way to keep your baby close for comfort when they are feeling unwell

Make sure you pack plenty of baby clothes. Babies often go through several sets in a day when they’re well, and many more if they have a stomach bug or cold. It is also a good idea to pack a sterilizing detergent for the inevitable laundry, to help you avoid cross-contamination, and some hand sterilizing liquid as well as an added precaution. You might need to buy the odd item, too.

Looking after your sick baby

Night-times can be particularly difficult when your baby is unwell, which unfortunately means less sleep for you. Try to rest as much as possible during the day to make sure you’re getting the down time you need, and think about packing a good book to read in the early hours if you do find yourself awake; an e-book is ideal as they can be read one-handed, leaving you to soothe your baby with the other hand.

If you are up during the night with your sick baby, an e-book is ideal as they can be read one-handed, leaving you to soothe your sick baby with the other hand

Babies are likely to alter their routine when they’re unwell, sleeping for more or less time than usual, and changing how much milk and solids they eat. Try to stick to their usual bed and bath times and, if they’re weaning, to their meal times if possible. Try not to be too rigid, however, and be flexible to their needs. Remember that this will pass, and your baby will return to his or her usual sleeping and feeding pattern.

Many babies who have started weaning will regress to eating less solids and taking more milk when they’re sick. Don’t worry for the first few days when they’re poorly as, like sleep, things will return to normal once your baby is better. The most important thing is to keep them comfortable and make sure they’re getting enough nutrients and fluids. However, persistent vomiting or diarrhoea in very young children always warrants a trip to the doctor.

Knowing what is normal and what is not in terms of vomit and poo can be tricky, though, as frequent bowel movements and the odd sick-up are common features of a small baby. That’s why it’s important to trust your instincts, as you know your baby best and what is normal for them, whether that’s six poos a day or one every other day. There are lots of helpful guides available on what to expect and when to worry.

The normal temperature for a baby can also differ; for example, you might have noticed that your normal temperature is 36.5°C while your partner’s is 37°C. Again, this is why it’s so important to know what’s normal for your baby. Taking their temperature over a few days when they’re healthy can be a useful exercise, to give you a reliable measure when they become ill.

However, it can be tricky to take a baby’s temperature, particularly if they’re feeling poorly, which is why Braun has developed a range of thermometers to suit different families’ needs. Braun’s No Touch + forehead thermometer uses advanced technology to create a reliable reading without coming into contact with your baby’s skin so that there is no need to wake a sleeping child. Another option is the ThermoScan 7 thermometer with Age Precision, which takes in-ear readings and will tell you what is a fever for your child’s age.

Hopefully, these pointers will help you to relax and enjoy your time away as best you can if your baby does become ill. As parents, it’s natural to worry, but remember that babies pick up on their parents’ anxiety in a heartbeat. The best thing to do is to stay calm and do your best to enjoy your special time away together. Try to choose relaxing activities that don’t involve too much forward planning – perhaps a gentle walk, light lunch, or boat trip. After all, you are on holiday.

Poorly babies are exhausting, so make sure you look after yourself as well as the baby. You don’t want to become ill as well so wash your hands often, and if you do start to feel under the weather, don’t ignore it. As parents of a newborn you’re unlikely to be hitting the night clubs, but be aware of how much alcohol you consume and avoid overdosing on caffeine, particularly if you’re breastfeeding. Eat well, drink plenty of water, and take a destressing walk when you need to, perhaps taking it in turns with your partner if you don’t want to take baby outside as well. Most importantly, be gentle to yourself and your partner. You don’t need to do the whole sightseeing tour this time.

When to find a doctor

Trust your instincts, and if you’re at all worried about your baby, take him or her to see a medical professional straight away. Below are a few signs to be particularly alert for, that could indicate a serious illness:

  • An oral temperature that exceeds 37.4°C in babies under three months old
  • An oral temperature above 38.5 °C in babies between 3 and 36 months
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Dry nappies, which are a sign of dehydration
  • A rash that doesn’t disappear when you press a glass against it
  • Blotchy or ashen skin

What to pack for holidays with a baby

  • A reliable thermometer
  • Baby ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • Plenty of muslin squares
  • Liquid hand sterilizer
  • A sterilizing laundry detergent
  • A book or e-book
  • Insurance documents, if travelling abroad
  • Your baby’s medical records