Dealing with Mother Nature
In the UK we are quite lucky that we don’t usually have extreme temperatures. Fair enough, a fluttering of snow and the schools shut and people wonder why they pay council tax. Or after just 2 days of warm weather hose pipe bans come into force. But compared to the rest of the world we get off quite lucky. Below are some of the issues that may arise whilst travelling.
The fact is some places get hot. Very hot. So hot that you sweat profusely and will dehydrate within no time at all if you don’t look after yourself. Your skin will burn within minutes and kids will lose every ounce of energy and they may be unable to let you know just how bad they actually are. The Middle East and Northern Africa get brutal during the summer and parts of the USA and SE Asia can roast you up good and proper if you don’t take precaution.
Look to visit sites early morning where it is often cooler, and try and stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. But realistically it stays red hot long into the early evening.
If you decide to head to the beach you should find a parasol as the sun will fry you up like a chicken in no time.
The heat will sap every bit of energy you have, leave your clothes wet and then magnets for dust and grime and make you feel dirty. Sweat stings your eyes after about 5 minutes you will be drenched in sweat. But believe me you get used to it. It takes a week or so but you will get used to the sun. I have seen Indian blokes in fifty degree heat looking dapper in a suit at the Taj Mahal. And kids get used to it quicker than adults, remember – Abi and Charlie are both red heads and so have pale skin. If they can adapt anyone can.
In terms of clothes to take wear thin cotton clothes, kids need sun hats when it is brutally hot and sun glasses are a must.
If you can’t cope at all buy an umbrella to give you permanent shade.
Air con is a must in hotels, also check if they have a generator. If the power goes off during the night you will suffer.
See Babies and Young Children for specific info for little ones.
But you really shouldn’t under estimate the heat, if you can’t tolerate a warm day in England then you will seriously struggle in somewhere like the Middle East where the heat becomes prohibitive for even the locals.
Advice regarding sunburn from health:
When travelling with kids you will be surprised initially at just what an effect the sun will have on them. Some parts of India are 50 degrees and it gets to the point where you can barely cope. Exhaustion kicks in, you get dry mouth and your skin burns. This is your body telling you to drink water, and chill out.
Sunburn comes on quicker than you can imagine and factor 50 is an absolute must for children. Sun lotion is difficult and expensive to get hold of outside the main tourist areas and so come stocked up. I also make my children wear sun hats, they complain this makes them hotter and sweat and I counter this by telling them that we can control that by drinking more, but if they get sun stroke they will be ill and then we can’t control it. With that in mind I never scrimp on sun lotion, apply it regularly and ensure it is boosted prior to and following swimming in the sea. If you do encounter sunburn then apply hydrocortisone 1% and cover up. It may sound daft but sunburn, on sunburn is very painful.
Official Medical advice on sunburn and heat exhaustion & Heatstroke
Advice regarding dehydration from health:
In terms of dehydration thirst is a poor indicator of when the body needs water. Kids get bored of water but it is absolutely imperative they drink plenty. I buy my children their own bottle of water so I can monitor how much they have drank. We have regular water breaks on hot days where we find shade, and I will make them drink up to 500mL of water. It is not uncommon for us to drink 3 Litres each per day minimum.
At night I ensure the kids have a 1.5L bottle of water before going to bed, I tell them they must drink this before we leave in the morning. I know how much they sweat at night and this needs replacing.
If we are spending extended times in the sun, say on a camel safari out into the desert or if I think we have exerted a lot and so sweated a lot I will add to the water rehydration salts. These bought abroad are nasty, awful tasting they are a great bribe and the kids are fully aware that if they fail to keep up with the hydration requirements I give them, then they will have to have rehydration salts – Works every time!
Key things to look out for in kids is how often they go to the toilet. Also I will periodically check my children’s urine, if it is clear then this is an indication they are hydrated, the darker yellow it is the more it indicates they need to take in water.
Look out for lethargy, tiredness, out of character, dry mouths, dizziness and headache. If they do complain of a headache, monitor if it reduces or goes with the intake of water.
Remember, dehydration in a hot country can occur very quickly, it is absolutely imperative you monitor your children’s hydration. A completely avoidable condition it should be taken seriously, if your child is too ill to take on fluids then you should seek medical help immediately.
Some places are freezing cold and the snow or frozen rivers will give it away prompting you to bang your coat on and wrap the kids in Primark’s best scarf and hat set before stepping off the bus. But some places are sneaky, and will bake you all day long only to drop below freezing at night.
Deserts are king of being sly when it comes to weather, as are places at altitude. Though unless you go out trekking and don’t plan ahead you are unlikely to find yourself suddenly in -20 degree temperatures wearing just a pair of shorts and flip flops.
Planning ahead is key, as like dehydration, hypothermia can creep up on you and particularly in kids.
The NHS defines hypothermia as: Hypothermia happens when a person’s body temperature drops below 35°C (95°F). Normal body temperature is around 37°C (98.6°F).
Common symptoms of hypothermia vary according to how badly the person is effected, the NHS provides comprehensive advice and information on hypothermia here.
Monsoons are part of daily life for much of the world. Essentially giving some countries just two seasons per year – The wet season, and the dry season.
But contrary to what some people believe wet season doesn’t mean it rains constantly for months on end. Actually and more commonly in Asia and India it will rain for an hour or so in the afternoon and then within an hour the streets will be steaming dry and life carries on.
In the Northern Hemisphere summer tends to be wet season in countries prone to monsoons but even this is very general indication as countries tend to have separate times of the summer where one half may be dry and one half wet (Thailand for example) Add into the fray microclimates and some places are dry even in wet season.
The best advice would be to look into country specific information. Working your plan around the wet season is relatively easy though not always guaranteed. I have spent weeks in Thailand in wet season and seen just a few days of rain, but a friend was there in 2011 and it rained every day.
Wet season does have its bonuses though and this can pretty much be given as an equation:
Wet season = low season = lower prices = less people
Additionally, some parts of the natural world really come alive in the wet season, flowers bloom, the green gets greener and that nice landscape can easily become a breath-taking landscape.
Streets can flood within no time and suddenly everyone will be wading through dirty water up to their knees and your kid’s necks. Though they might be having the time of their life the water carries disease and bacteria and so keep their mouths shut, and any open wounds such as blisters would do well to be covered up. Flooded streets are one of the reasons we take walking boots.
Take a Gore-Tex jacket for whoever has the phone and wallet. Gore-Tex is lightweight, 100% waterproof and lets moisture escape meaning you don’t sweat. A personal example – We arrived into Probolinggo (Indonesia) and the raindrops were so big it was like getting pelted by water bombs constantly, it was full on monsoon and the streets were flooded to knee height. Before leaving the bus station I waterproofed everything I could, put my mobile phone, wallet and passports in my inside pocket of my Gore-Tex jacket and we set off. After about 15 minutes we found a hotel and once inside realised that every single item we had was drenched, our bags had leaked through, it was like we’d just swam through the sea. But the inside of my jacket was bone dry. Not a drop of rain had penetrated the jacket. And this is just one example, there have been several occasions where my Gore-Tex jacket has saved our essentials. There are many different brands, but a fantastic lightweight (and the jacket I have) is Berghaus Cornice 2IA mens waterproof jacket.
Take pack-macs for the kids, though generally kids love getting wet and so if ever you want to keep them dry just whip out a pack-a-mac in seconds. Not quite Gore-Tex, they offer limited protection from the rain, but kids sweat in them anyway meaning ultimately for any period of time in a humid country and they’ll be wet inside and out.
Monsoons bring mud slides and roads close for days on end. Always ask for local info and be prepared to fly if you end up getting blocked in. Or grab a shovel and help!
For some people humidity is the worst thing they associate with climate. It is also something I don’t think you ever get used to. It leaves you soaked in sweat, makes energy sapping tasks even more demanding and makes sleeping at night near impossible.
There isn’t a great deal you can do about the humidity other than wear appropriate thin clothing and just try and deal with it.
It goes without saying that humidity is at its worst after a rain shower.
At altitude the air is thinner and thinner air means less oxygen, but also nitrogen and everything else that is present in air. For instance, at sea level (the UK) the body is saturated with 98% oxygen. At 3000m 88% and then every thousand metres roughly 10% is lost. So at 4000m the body is saturated with just 78% oxygen. People react differently, mild symptoms include nausea, difficultly sleeping, dizziness, irritability, fatigue, and headaches. Most people experience some form of mild symptoms. Everyone will experience breathlessness under mild exertion. Left untreated AMS (acute Mountain sickness) can, and does kill. Other than popping some pills and offsetting things slightly the only thing to do is descend.
From thuderstorms taking power out, mud slides shutting roads, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and volcanos kicking off there is a lot to contend with.
Though major natural disasters are thankfully not particularly common, they can occur at any time and can have devastating consequences.
Keep an eye on local information, your countries travel advice (FCO in the UK) and the Early Warning Disaster Network
I am not an expert on natural disasters, but as a traveller with kids the only real suggestions I can make is to take a torch/headlight and to always keep up to date with local information.