Thanksgiving is already here, and the rest of the holiday season is fast approaching. For many families, the holidays involve some amount of travel, whether it’s a cross-country flight or a two-hour drive. As much fun as the holidays can be, traveling does have some safety risks. To have a safe and fun holiday season with your kids, our pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center have some helpful tips:
Car Safety Tips
If you’re driving to your destination, these steps can help you and your kids stay safe:
- Use a vehicle that has enough seats for everyone. That means all children under age 13 should have a back seat that can accommodate whichever safety device they need.
- Make sure to follow all of the appropriate car seat rules. There are a lot of details to remember, so refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics car seat guidelines for kids.
- Some car manufacturers advertise that they use advanced airbags. While these air bags do appear to be safer for adults, their safety for kids has not been evaluated enough. Continue to keep children in the back seat. Even in cars with these advanced air bags.
- If you’re going to a colder climate with winter weather, follow some additional safety precautions:
- Don’t put your baby in a puffy coat underneath their car seat. In a crash, puffy clothing will compress and leave the safety harness dangerously loose. Instead, keep them warm by dressing them in thin layers along with a hat and gloves. For more warmth, you can put a blanket on them (on top of the safety harness).
- If you’re not used to driving in winter weather, look up some tips. Know what to do if you start sliding on ice, how to tell if the roadway is frozen, how to get out if you’re stuck in a snow drift, etc.
- Make an emergency winter safety kit to keep in your car in case you get stuck or stranded. This should include:
- Long-lasting and easy-to-access foods like granola bars
- Bottled water
- An ice scraper and snow brush
- Dry clothing, hats, and gloves
- A center punch (a tool to break the car window in an emergency)
- Remember the rule of thumb to keep your child warm: a child needs one more layer than an adult.
- RVs are popular options for a holiday outing. Make sure to follow some safety precautions, though:
- Use an RV that has a forward-facing seat for every member of the family, and that the seats can accommodate the car seat, booster seat, or other safety equipment your kids need.
- Make sure your RV meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, which means the seat belts have both lap belts and shoulder belts.
- Practice driving the RV before you load up your kids and head for unfamiliar roads. An RV drives differently than your typical passenger vehicle, so it takes time to get used to.
Air Travel Safety Tips
For families traveling by plane this holiday season, follow these tips for a safer trip:
- While it isn’t required to buy a seat for a child who is under 2 years old, the safest option is to buy a seat for your baby and use a safe car seat. Just make sure the car seat is approved for use on an airplane.
- Dress your child in easy-on, easy-off layers. You never know what temperature the plane will be, and you have little control over it. Layers prepare you for every situation, but they also make diaper changes and bathroom trips easier in the cramped plane bathroom.
- If your baby’s ears get uncomfortable, giving them something to suck on during take-off and initial descent can help. You can choose to breastfeed or give them a bottle or pacifier.
- Some kids are bothered by the excess noise on an airplane. For these kids, cotton balls and earplugs may help.
- If you’re renting a car at your destination, call ahead to make sure they can accommodate the safety equipment you need.
No matter how you’re getting to your destination, we have one final tip: find a great pediatrician and hospital near the place you’re staying. You never know when an emergency will arise, and you don’t want to waste valuable time trying to find a doctor in the midst of a stressful situation. To make this less likely, it’s also a good idea to schedule a physical exam for kids before you travel if your kids are due (or nearly due) for their next visit.