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Taking the Kids: Staying safe on vacation

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

As for shark attacks, they have actually declined in recent years, notes Dr. Steve Kessel, director of Marine Research at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. There were just 66 cases last year. "The relative chance of any given individual being bitten would have remained constant and very, very low," said Dr. Kessel, who studies sharks in the Bahamas.

That said, it's important to remember Dr. Kessel added that "the oceans can be a dangerous place," and it is important to be diligent when enjoying the water. Seek local advice before going into the water and only swim where lifeguards are present. Should you see a shark, he said, remain calm and exit the water. When possible, face the shark and swim calmly backward to a safe point of exit. In the very unlikely scenario that a shark bites you, Kessel said, focus any defensive efforts around the eye and gills, which will give you the best chance of the shark backing out of the encounter.

The Red Cross Emergency Apps for water safety, including educational games and videos for kids, for first-aid, pet first-aid, among others, are a good bet. Even if lifeguards are present, you (or another responsible adult) should stay with your children, the Red Cross says. Adults can take turns being "water watchers," putting down their phones when it's their turn. Drowning often is silent and happens in seconds -- less time than it takes to send a text. Insist that children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets. "Floaties" are not enough.

Those traveling with infants should be concerned about the measles outbreak. Children under a year old are at greater risk of suffering measles complications, explained Dr. Bernstein, but they're too young for the standard recommended dosing of the MMR vaccine. However, by CDC guidelines, an MMR vaccine can and should be given to infants at least six months old, who are traveling internationally. This dose of the MMR is in addition to the two doses traditionally given at 12 months and 4 years old, Dr. Bernstein said, adding that parents should be especially cautious traveling with a young infant to a place with a higher measles risk.

A traveling first-aid kit should have some bandages and antibiotic cream for cuts and a steroid cream for irritated skin or bug bites. Families also might want to consider bringing pain medications or allergy medications. Other needed items will depend on the vacation destination and activities planned. Families should think about discussing this with their pediatrician, suggests Dr. Bernstein.


And wherever you are, please don't leave kids unattended in a car, even for a few minutes. Did you know heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under age 14?

Stay safe out there!


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