Tips for having a healthy holiday with your family

Remember to follow the MCO SOPs while travelling for the school holidays. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

Is your family travelling somewhere this school holidays?

Be prepared and protect yourself and the family from illness to avoid turning a fun vacation into a trip to the emergency room.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us.

Drastic measures such as lockdowns and restrictions of movement have had to be imposed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Many people are still cautious about travelling.

If you are planning to go somewhere for a family trip, do take safety precautions to ensure your family stays healthy and protected.

Before you go

Preparation is key to having a stress-free and fun holiday.

In addition to planning your transport, accommodation and activities, here are some items to add to your checklist before you depart:

> Know your family’s health status

Consult your doctor before the trip.

Family members with pre-existing medical conditions should get adequate supplies of their required medications.

Prepare a bracelet to identify your child’s condition or allergies, plus important contacts, in case of an emergency.

Everyone’s routine vaccinations should be up to date.

If anyone is sick, it’s better to postpone the trip. There will always be other holidays.

> Apply for travel insurance

This is important in case of unexpected events, e.g. trip cancellations, lost belongings and health emergencies.

There may be different types of insurance for different cases – your insurance provider will advise according to your specific needs.

> Study the destination

Are there any endemic diseases or ongoing outbreaks at the destination?

Is it a red, yellow or green zone for Covid-19?

Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and you might even reconsider your holiday destination if you think the health risk is too high.

> Take the appropriate travel vaccines

Apart from the routine vaccinations listed in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) required during childhood, there are also recommended vaccines for travel, such as:

  • Pneumococcal: Happens worldwide but more commonly where the vaccine is not routinely used, including in Malaysia as the promised vaccination programme by the Health Ministry has not been rolled out yet.
  • Rotavirus: Highly contagious, it causes diarrhoea and severe dehydration in infants and young children.
  • Cholera: An acute diarrhoeal infection from contaminated food or water, and poor hygiene.
  • Typhoid: Three in four cases usually happen while travelling, due to contaminated food or water.
  • Influenza: Highly recommended when travelling during flu season, which is now in Malaysia.
> Pack appropriate supplies
Do include first aid items, sunscreen, insect repellent, over-the-counter medicines and your prescribed medicines in your packing list.

During the trip

Here are some health and safety tips to observe while on your holiday:

> Eat and drink safely

It’s best to consume thoroughly cooked food that is served hot.

Stick to bottled or hot drinks if possible.

Have fresh fruits that are washed and peeled by yourself.

Frequently wash hands with soap and water (or hand sanitisers) before and after eating, and after using the toilet.

> Prevent insect bites

Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies can spread dangerous diseases like dengue, typhus or malaria.

Apply insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves for protection.

However, insect repellent should not be applied on babies under two months of age.

> Avoid animal bites

Do not pet or handle wild or street animals, even kittens and puppies.

If anyone is bitten or scratched, thoroughly rinse the affected area with soap and water, and seek further treatment at the nearest clinic!

> Prevent sunburn

Use sunscreen that protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Apply sunscreen first and wait for it to dry before applying insect repellent.

It’s best to reapply the sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating, even if you are using SPF 30 and above.

> Prioritise physical safety

Wear protective gear for adventure activities.

Supervise children at all times around and in water.

Do not swim in fresh water where sanitation is doubtful, as infections such as leptospirosis may be present.

> Ensure road safety

The vehicle you are using should have seatbelts and other safety features.

Make sure your child rides in age-appropriate child car seats.

Avoid travelling in an overloaded bus.

A family holiday is a good opportunity to spend more quality time with your family.

But new places present various unexpected risks, which can put your family’s health and safety at risk.

Being prepared and vigilant keeps family vacations safe, healthy and stress-free.

Continue to follow the SOPs (standard operating procedures) outlined by the authorities as the Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet!

Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Child health , travel , holidays


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