The highlight of a great family holiday for most kids is time spent splashing in the pool, particularly in the summer or in tropical countries. But there is no faster way to dampen a family vacation than an ear infection or sunburn. Dr. Tan Lih Yi of International Medical Clinic gives suitcases&strollers some of her travel tips for avoiding common medical conditions associated with long days in the water and swimming with kids. 


Gastrointestinal Illness

These occur after ingestion of water that is contaminated with germs (e.g. virus or bacteria). Most diarrhea and vomiting illnesses are usually caused by a type of germ called viruses. Illnesses caused by viruses usually resolve without needing any specific treatment.

Bacterial gastrointestinal infections can be caused by Salmonella, Giardia, Shigella and E. coli. Bacterial gastroenteritis is more likely to cause fever and blood in diarrhea as compared to viral gastroenteritis. The history and clinical examination may provide some clues to the cause of the illness, however, a stool sample may be necessary to confirm this.

The mainstay of treatment in diarrhea and vomiting illnesses is the prevention of dehydration. You should seek medical attention if the diarrhea is bloody, if there is associated fever and chills, if the symptoms last for more than 3 days, if there is dehydration or if there are other concerns (e.g. constant abdominal pain).Children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals can develop more serious complications if the bacterial infections are left untreated.


Ear Conditions

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an infection of the ear’s outer canal. It causes itching and pain and can be associated with ear discharge. Swimmer’s ear usually occurs within a few days of ear exposure to contaminated water or contaminated objects.  It can sometimes be avoided by applying alcohol-based eardrops after swimming which helps to the dry the ears. Treatment is with antibiotic eardrops or oral antibiotics in more resistant cases.


Skin Conditions

Excessive sun exposure is a health hazard due to the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the skin. Sunburn can range from mild redness to blistering. Besides sunburn, ultraviolet radiation can also cause pre-mature skin cancers. Vulnerable people include babies and children, individuals with fair skin, albinism or previous skin cancers. Certain medications can cause increased photosensitivity as well, such as tetracycline. Swimmers should avoid the midday sun and wear waterproof sunscreen with an SPF value of 40 or above. [For more sun smart tips, see the suitcases&strollers story here.] 

Hot tub rash is an infection of the skin (dermatitis) or of the hair follicles in the skin (folliculitis) acquired from contact with contaminated water. The infection occurs most commonly after swimming in hot tubs or spas. It is often worse under the areas of skin covered by a swimsuit, since the swimsuit can keep the contaminated water in contact with the skin for a longer period of time. Most cases of hot-tub rash are caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Hot tub rash usually begins with itchy skin or itchy bumps on the skin which progress to form tender red nodules that may contain pus. It generally resolves on its own within a few days and medical treatment is rarely necessary.

Eczema is the commonest skin condition that affects children. It can be aggravated by swimming because of irritation from the chlorinated water or other contaminants. Treatment is usually via moisturisers and topical (applied-to-the-skin) steroids.


How To Stop Getting Sick When Swimming With Kids

·  Ensure you only swim in clean and clear pool water that does not have any offensive odour.

·  Refrain from swimming when having diarrhea as you can pass your germs to other people.

·  Avoid swallowing pool water, especially with babies and toddlers.

·  Shower before and after swimming and wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

·  Take children on regular bathroom breaks so they are not relieving themselves in the pool.

·  Do not change diapers at the poolside and thoroughly clean diaper-changing area.

·  Protect against sunburn with an effective waterproof sunscreen, rash vests, hats and sunglasses and re-apply sunscreen regularly.


For more travel tips, see the suitcases&strollers interview with the team from Bondi Rescue, Family Beach Safety Tips 

This story is sponsored by International Medical Clinic