We’ve all been there.
You can’t wait for winter vacation to begin! You’re getting on a plane to visit grandma and the kid’s new baby cousin. But it’s cold and flu season, and the passenger right behind you is sneezing and sniffling the whole ride over while you try to get the kids to hold their breath and keep their hands away from their faces. And like clockwork, by the next morning, the kids are running a fever and their noses are starting to run, and now you’re quarantined for days in your Airbnb while the rest of the family is out having fun.
The winter holidays are filled with wonder and joy. But unfortunately, they can also be filled with colds, flus and a variety of other illnesses. And the last thing you want to do on your long-awaited holiday vacation is spend your time either holed up in your hotel room or waiting for hours in the emergency room for your kids to be seen. So what are my tips and tricks to keep your family healthy while traveling, and to nip any illness in the bud before it can ruin your trip?
Read on for my tips to keep your family healthy this holiday and beat the winter blues. Find out exactly what remedies I bring with me for a healthy, happy vacation! And if you’d rather just cut to the chase, you can download my free guide now: Essential Winter Travel Remedy Kit
Airplane Travel Tips & Tricks
- Get a Good Night Sleep – Make sure you’ve had a good night sleep the night before (and hopefully for the week leading up to your trip!). Airport travel is chaotic this time of year, especially when you have carseats, strollers, diaper bags, and whining kids to juggle. The emotional stress of travel is enough to wear our immune systems down and make us more vulnerable to our neighbor’s coughing. So get your zzzz’s and start your travels on the right foot!
- Wipe down tray table, seat buckles, and armrests – A study looking at the dirtiest places on airplanes and at airports found that the tray table had the most germs by far of any of the 26 samples tested – almost 10 times as many colony-forming units of bacteria than even the lavatory flush button! Eeeuuuwww! So before you put your child’s snack, IPad, or art project on that tray table in front of them, wipe it down along with the other surfaces that your child may touch.
- Stay hydrated, and bring your own water – Wanna know the second germiest place at the airport? Water drinking fountain buttons! And what’s the first thing that kids do after taking a big swill from a water fountain as you’re yelling at them to NOT touch their mouth to the spigot – wipe their wet, dripping mouths with their hands! Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to stay healthy on the road, but bring your refillable water bottles and fill them up with spring water that you buy on the other side once you’ve passed the security gates. Not only will little hands be exposed to fewer germs from the water fountain button, but you’ll be sure that the water your kids are drinking is clean and safe.
- Bring healthy snacks – Be prepared and pack some healthy snacks that travel well, like baby carrots, snap peas, dried fruit, and nuts. As tempting as it may be to “bribe” your child with a pack of M&M’s or a chocolate croissant from Starbuck’s for being “good” on the plane – resist the temptation. Sugar lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off germs within 20 minutes of consumption – just as the passenger behind you starts hacking away.
- Take Oscillococcinum – Oscillococcinum is an amazing homeopathic remedy for colds and flus. But did you know that it can also help preventatively? Give yourself and each member of your family 1 vial of Oscillococcinum before getting on that plane to give everyone a quick and easy immune boost.
- Clear your nose – Stop those germs from multiplying and taking hold in the first place. Spraying your noses with Xlear nasal spray and blowing out any germs before they can grab hold is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep from getting sick in the first place! Xlear comes in a spray for older kids and adults, and in nasal drops for babies, and they’re small enough that you can carry them right on the plane in your TSA-approved quart-sized liquids bag. Spray and blow (or suck out with a bulb syringe or Nose Frida) throughout your plane ride, or at least as soon as you get off!
- Breathe – bring along your favorite immune-boosting essential oil blend, whether it’s DoTerra’s OnGuard, or Elizabeth van Buren’s Immune, or Young Living’s Thieves Oil. I literally just open the bottle and have my kids take a deep inhale. But for infants and younger kids, you can put a few drops into a small spray bottle and spray onto the bottoms of their feet, spray in the air around them, and even use to clean your tray table top!
Hopefully with these tips and tricks, you’ll manage to avoid catching anything ON the plane. But you’ve just arrived, and your winter vacation is just starting! Be prepared for whatever may come your way by leaving a little extra room in your bags to bring some supplements and natural remedies with you. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an unfamiliar place with no Whole Foods or health food store in sight when your kids are starting to fade! And maybe I’m a little superstitious, but I always think that if I HAVE these natural remedies with me, chances are I won’t need them.
Many of you have asked me what I, as a holistic pediatrician and mama, bring with me on our travels. So here it is – my ESSENTIAL winter holiday travel remedy kit!
- Probiotics –Taking a probiotic-a-day can keep tummy troubles and the flu away! 2 specific probiotic strains have been found to reduce the frequency and duration of fevers and colds/flus. These 2 strains are found in Metagenics’ Ultra Flora Children’s chewable probiotic, Metagenics’ Ultra Flora Balance probiotic capsules, and Metagenics’ Ultra Flora Synergy probiotic powder. I just bring the chewables with me so that we all take the same one. The dosage is the same for kids and adults – 1 chew 2x/day. It’s shelf-stable at room temperature, and 1 or 2 bottles should get your whole family through vacation in tip top shape!
- Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D3 is one of the most important immune boosters for the winter and all-year-round.
- Umcka Coldcare syrup – This herbal syrup is great to start at the beginning of any cold or flu-like illness. (NOTE: this is the same as Integrative Therapeutic’s V Clear syrup).
- Kan Herb’s Windbreaker – This tincture is a staple in our household. We travel with 8-ounce bottles! If your child is amenable to taking Chinese herbs (really – these aren’t bad!), this formula will knock that cold, fever, or flu right out of your system!
- Xlear Nasal Spray – A must to prevent infections (spray while flying or after any potential “exposure”), and to help clear those congested, runny noses!
If you’re not familiar with homeopathic medicines, please refer to my blogposts What is Homeopathy – Part 1 and What is Homeopathy – Part 2 for more information on what they are and how to use them. As many of you know, homeopathic medicines are often my preferred choice for infants, and pregnant and nursing women, because they are so safe yet effective! I generally recommend using the 9C or 30C dilution, although the 30C dilution is usually easier to find at Whole Foods and other health food stores. The dosage is typically 3 pellets every 3-4 hours at least 10 minutes away from food or drink. However, for acute situations like hives and fevers, homeopathic medicines can even be given every 10-15 minutes as needed. Space out the interval between doses as symptoms improve. Stop when feeling better. These are the homeopathic medicines with their most common indications that I’ll be packing this holiday:
- Oscillococcinum – 1 vial 3 times over a 24-hour period at the start of flu-like illness, fever, chills. Also great to take preventatively during a flight or after any potential “exposure.”
- Coldcalm – a combination cold/flu formula to combat the most common symptoms.
- Arnica – for head bonks, bruises, sprains, aches and pains.
- Nux vomica – for nausea and vomiting, or upset stomach/indigestion especially after overindulgence (too many cookies for the kids, or perhaps too much champagne on New Year’s Eve?)
- Arnica ointment/cream – for sore muscles, head bonks, bruises and sprains.
- Calendula ointment/cream – for open cuts and scratches, itchy rashes. And if you’re headed to the mountains where nosebleeds are a common occurrence, calendula to both nostrils at bedtime can do the trick!
- Lavender – for general calming, fevers, aches and pains, sleep support.
- Peppermint – for nausea, can also be applied directly to itchy spots and bites.
- Your favorite immune-boosting blend – Elizabeth van Buren’s Immune, DoTerra’s On Guard, Young Living’s Thieves
So there you have it – my Essential Winter Holiday Travel Remedy Kit. Be sure to download your free guide here: Essential Winter Travel Remedy Kit
If you want even more details, be sure to check out my articles Top Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immune System and Pediatrician-Approved Natural Remedies for the Flu
Now go have fun in the snow or sun – wherever these winter holidays take you. Have a healthy, happy vacation, and please pass this information along to any mama or papa you know who could benefit!
xo Holistic mama doc – Elisa Song, MD
I cannot find the Kan Herbs supplement locally, any suggestions on how to order this product?
Hi Amy! Glad you find the article helpful! The Kan Herbs products can be purchased through practitioners (usually acupuncturists), and it’a actually also available on Amazon (just checked!). Good luck!
We are dealing with the parainfluenza virus in our home right now. I had given Oscillo at the beginning, essential oils on their feet throughout, vitamin D and our other daily vitamins, as well as elderberry syrup each day. While my older 2 seem to be improving (but have residual cough), my 3 year old is still looking worn down and has a deep sounding cough. Is this an appropriate time to give windbreaker? I’m very new to herbal remedies and struggle with knowing the timing/frequency of the treatments. Thank you!! 🙂
Hi Krista, Windbreaker is generally the most helpful in the early part of an illness where fever and cold symptoms are predominant, but yes- it could be helpful at this stage. There are a variety of homeopathic remedies for croup (parainfluenza) that have been discussed on the Thriving Child Community private Facebook group so if you haven’t already joined, definitely consider joining and you can search for “croup” posts in there! 🙂
Dear Dr. Song,
Thanks for your work. What is your perspective on mouthwash or rinse with gargling before bed? Doesn’t that practice help to reduce the bacteria that would infect our throats and nasal passages? It might be economical as well?
Hi Anh! Rinsinng your mouth and brushing your tongue is another great way to clear germs before then can take hold. Great tip! 🙂
Thank you for the great blog post!! I’m curious if you recommend increasing dosage of Vitamin D3 for babies during cold/flu season? I have a 9mo old and am giving her the recommended 400iu/day D3 drops. Thx?
Hi Christine! In general, a maintenance dose of Vitamin D3 is 1000IU per 25 pounds of body weight – this is assuming that babies/people are at adequate levels to begin with. But if you’ve been giving your baby 400IU daily since infancy, she’s probably fine maintaining this dose until she’s a little bigger!
Hi Dr. Song!
I love reading all that you post! I wanted to ask if all the remedies you listed above are safe while nursing?
The homeopathic remedies and probiotics are all safe while nursing. The herbal medicines and nutritional supplements I recommend should be safe while nursing, and I did take all of these myself when I was nursing both my kids. But to be on the totally safe side, if you have any particular concerns I would definitely run it by your doc! 🙂
Thank YOU for your healthy holiday tips! I travelled via airplane over Thanksgiving and Christmas. They worked for me, especially coating the nostrils with Xlear! Love that product! And essential oils are always good armor against germs!
So glad! xo Elisa
Hi Doc Song – I just love reading all your tips and tricks!! Thank you for taking the time to help so many of us who want to raise thriving kiddos. We are about to go on vacation via plane, and I definitely could use all the info to keep us healthy. I’m new to essential oils and would love to know how exactly to make a spray bottle of theives (any other oils?) to use with my 2 and 5 year old, and also my husband and myself. How many drops on how large of an airline approved bottle? I suppose we can spray the air and use the same bottle to wipe down the tray tables? Anything else we should do? I can spray bottoms of their feet as well… with the same sprayer correct? How many times should I do this on a 5 hour flight?
Thank so so so much!!!
I have a question regarding fermented cod liver oil. I give it to myself and my children and wanted your opinion on the vitamin d and a concerns in taking it. My family doesn’t eat much fish and have read a lot of Weston Price articles and have felt it was important.
Hi Tonya, Kaayla Daniel is a nutritionist who has done an incredible about of research on fermented cod liver oil and follows the work of Weston A. Price closely. She has convinced me that fermented cod liver oil is not the best way to go. I would choose a high quality fish oil that is not fermented. And Vitamin D is one of my children’s core supplements. Best, Elisa