Got a holiday planned for this upcoming March break? From stress and jet lag, to germy airplanes, travel can take its toll on the best of us. But when you combine a trip with tiny humans who have developing immune systems and a penchant for putting everything they touch in their mouth, you can see why special care needs to be taken to prevent illness when you’re travelling with little ones.
To help you prep their immune system and reduce the risk of illness on your well-deserved family vacay, we thought we would share how travel impacts kids and ways to keep them healthy and happy while you’re away.
Prep Their Immune System
Kids are still growing and developing, which includes their immune system, and leaves them at risk for acquiring viral, bacterial and parasitic infections that have to be fought off and controlled by immune responses.1
If you’re a parent, you’re probably well aware of how quickly kids transfer germs to one another. While you may be sick (pun intended) of dealing with multiple colds and earaches throughout the year, part of this is beneficial to your child’s immune system.
But here is something to consider. Approximately 20% of our lymphocytes (aka white blood cells) live in the gut, where they continually surveillance the scene looking out for sources of infection. A sub-category of these lymphocytes is known as ‘memory T-cells’. Think of these guys as cells with experience. Every time we experience a virus or bacteria (whether through illness or vaccination), these guys file the experience away, so the next time we encounter that germ, our immune system can deal with the problem stronger and faster than previously.
When we look at the developing immune system, it's believed that previous exposure to infection or vaccination is not responsible for the development of all of our memory T-cells. In fact, some of them may be primed by our microbiome.1
Including a research-proven probiotic is a great way to bolster your child’s intestinal microbiome and ensure it’s primed for a stronger immune system. Prep their intestinal flora health with a daily dose of high-quality probiotic. Drinkable Bio-Kidz contains 12.5 billion CFU of three unique, patented bacteria strains designed to ward off bad bacteria, optimize good bacteria, and promote wellbeing. Available in strawberry (our dairy-based product), or raspberry (our dairy-free option, with a juice like consistency), Bio-Kidz makes it easy for little ones to take on its own or incorporated into kid-friendly recipes like this berry-filled smoothie. Be sure to always keep drinkable Bio-Kidz cold to ensure the quality and efficacy of probiotic bacteria.
Get them ready for time change
Kids work best when on a schedule, (you’ve seen the impact of a toddler who’s missed their nap) but long flights and crossing multiple time zone can throw even the best intentions out the window.
Temperament issues aside, sleep also plays an important role on our ability to ward off germs. Our intestinal microbiome is regulated by our intrinsic circadian rhythms, diet, and the time of day in which we eat. When these become altered, as can happen with jetlag, it can impact our immune function, metabolism and digestive health.2
To help kids better cope with their new time zone, try sticking to the same bedtime routine you follow at home, as the ritual will help them relax and signal to them that it is time for bed. If you’re travelling east-to-west, try to keep children up to their ‘normal’ bedtime (provided they aren’t too wiped). Stretching it out as long as you can (without making them overtired) will help them sleep longer throughout the night.3
Whether you are putting kids to bed a little early or dealing with an (extra) early riser, light and dark can be your best friends. If you’re trying to keep kids up a little later aim to get outside for some playtime. The fresh air and light will help to energize everyone and keep kids going a little longer. If you are trying to put kids to bed early, make sure the room is as dark as possible to help signal their internal clock that it is time to go to sleep.3
Ease Little Minds
A holiday may not seem like a reason to be tense, but for kids, the unfamiliar environment and change in routine may, in fact, be a source of stress.3
Our gut and brain are in constant communication with each other. When we experience stress (both child and adult alike), certain changes can take place in our intestines including decreased motility (leading to constipation) and changes to our gut microbiome, which can alter immune function and the production of hormones like serotonin (our happy hormone).
For older children, it is recommended to have a conversation with them in advance about the food, customs and language of the place you will be travelling too. You can even include them in planning the itinerary to make them feel more a part of the process.4
For younger children, consider packing a favourite toy, healthy snacks, or a special treat that will help them feel settled in their new environment.4
Travelling with your kids is the stuff memories are made of but getting the most out of your vacation means keeping them healthy and happy.
If you’ve got more questions on travelling with kids or have some tips let us know on Facebook or Instagram. To prep your kids’ immune system, be sure to stock up on Bio-Kidz. Find a store near you. Contact us or join our community.