Travel with kids isn’t always glamorous

Fourteen days into an eighteen-day trip to Italy and my two-year-old daughter, Lucia, was going with the flow like a seasoned veteran traveler. She was a perfect angel on the ten-hour flight from Chicago to Rome; she was treated, and acted, like a rock star in every city or town we’d visited; and she enjoyed road trips on winding Tuscan roads as much as we adults did. But on that fifteenth day, she just wasn’t herself. I could tell just by looking at her that something was wrong. She would not eat, she was extraordinarily crabby, and then she started running a fever. We were in Rome at this point of the trip, preparing to spend there our last few days in Italy before flying back home to Chicago. As any prepared, traveling parent would do, we had packed children’s Tylenol for the trip (as well as a thermometer) so we used that to try to decrease the fever. It seemed to work for a bit but then the fever spiked again. We spent the next two nights with Lucia in bed with us, her temperature fluctuating, her head covered in cold, wet towels; my husband, Mark, and I getting up every few hours to take her temperature and administer more Tylenol. After two nights of this misery, the fever was holding steady at 103 degrees, and I was beginning to freak out. I really did not want to end up in a Roman hospital in the middle of the night with a fevered two year old. But it was beginning to look like I wasn’t going to have a choice since a 103-degree fever is nothing to take lightly. Then, almost miraculously, the fever broke. I wasted no time that following day in calling, via Skype (I love technology), our pediatrician’s office back home in Chicago. I explained the situation and was advised to seek out a pharmacy nearby for more Tylenol and suppositories (Lucia now was constipated), and to bring Lucia in to see the doctor as soon as we arrived back home. Now, I studied Italian for several years, listened to various dialects being spoken around me at home, and got on quite well with my Italian language skills while traveling in Italy; however, none of the aforementioned experiences ever taught me how to ask for, or explain the need for, suppositories for a constipated child – in Italian. I’m not quite sure how I eventually got my point across to the pharmacist, but I got what I needed. Lucia was feeling better by the next afternoon but we chose to be cautious and did not take her out and about. Mark offered to stay at the hotel with her for the day while I showed Mom around Rome. I felt badly about leaving my husband behind – it was his first trip to Rome – but such is a sacrifice we make as parents.

In the end, all was well and Lucia was back to normal within days of returning home. I know, though, that things could have turned out quite differently. So, here are a few lessons I learned from this ordeal (or those of which I was once again reminded):

Never take my or my family members’ health for granted – at home or while traveling.

Take the time to learn a few medical-related terms, such as suppositories, in the native language of the country I am visiting.

Before arrival, have an idea of the locations of hospitals or children’s medical facilities.

Don’t let this experience discourage me from traveling again with my daughter.

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18 Responses to Travel with kids isn’t always glamorous

  1. Emily Sims June 29, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    How scary! I’m glad your daughter is okay and you were able to get what you needed from the pharmacy… there should be pocket-sized foreign language dictionaries just for medical terms!!!

    • Francesca June 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Thanks, Emily, and I definitely agree about the medical term dictionaries! Thanks for the Stumble, too 🙂

  2. D.J. - The World of Deej August 27, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    This is one of the things that scares me most about having kids. Being somewhere unfamiliar and something going wrong. Glad to hear yours turned out ok…

    • Francesca August 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks, Deej. Lucia being sick was scary but the thought of having to go to a hospital emergency room in Rome scared me even more!

  3. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) August 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    First off, beautiful photo of a precious little girl. 🙂 I’m so glad you were thinking ahead with the medicine. I’ve tried to explain medicine in Costa Rica before and that was a monumental task. Good call on learning some basic words just in case.

    • Francesca August 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Thank you so much, Leah. And to think my daughter was sick when that photo was taken… I just look at it and am instantly reminded of how miserable she was feeling then. It still breaks my heart.

  4. Raul (@ilivetotravel) August 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    OK, your story is not funny when it comes to the moment it all happened but as I read your parting thoughts, I thought to myself: “how would I find out how to say suppository in Romanian!” ::)) Sorry you had such a scare! And I agree with Leah, what a precious little girl, that girl of yours!

    • Francesca August 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      I mean, really, who would think to learn the word “suppository” in any other language?! I’m serious, I’m compiling a list of medical terms in all kinds of languages. I’m not letting something like this happen again! Thank you, too, Raul for the sweet words about my Lucia 🙂

  5. lolal August 28, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    ALWAYS BE PREPARED! it’s a good lesson & i know you always are 🙂

    • Francesca August 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      I try, Lola… I try. Thank you!

  6. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) August 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    this is an eye-opening piece, thanks for sharing… and I am definitely impressed with the 14 days of seasoned travelers from a 2yr old. But day 15 does serves as a reminder.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Francesca August 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Yes, fourteen days in and she was loving every minute of it as much as we adults were. She’s a great little traveler. That’s why I knew something was wrong on that 15th day… she just didn’t look “right”.

  7. Ted Nelson (@travelingted) August 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Despite the scare at the end, I think it is impressive that she did so well for two weeks. Adults often cannot go two weeks being a good traveler. Glad to hear the fever eventually broke.

    • Francesca August 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      So true, Ted! There are lots of adults I wouldn’t travel with for two weeks. But my Lucia? Any day 🙂

  8. Pola (@jettingaround) August 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Quite an experience… Good thing you were able to talk to your doctor and use your Italian skills to get what was needed. This reminds me of my trip to Spain with hubby, who got sick on the road. In Seville, I had to find a pharmacy and explain his symptoms to get medicine, and somehow I managed (gracias, my pocket dictionario). I agree that it’s very important to learn some basic medical phrases in foreign languages; you never know what will come in handy.

    On a side note, I hope your hubby got to enjoy Rome a little bit at least. Thanks for sharing the story.

    • Francesca August 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      Thank you, Pola. Hubs got to see the “big” ones in Rome (Colosseum, The Vatican), and he loved it. I think by that point in the trip, though, he was more than happy to just hang at the hotel. He’d had enough of the crowds.

  9. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld) August 30, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Wow, I am beyond myself that you could skype your doctor!!!

  10. Catalina August 19, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    What an stressful situation. Although now Its a good excuse to return to rome! My baby got her first stomach flu this last weekend and we have a trip to Canada next week. It will be her first trip! I have to find all your posts about air traveling. Lucia is so precious!

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