It’s great that our children get offered the chance to go on amazing adventures for Duke of Edinburgh Awards, or World Challenge, but before you wave goodbye, take a moment to think about their safety when they go away.
If travelling abroad, then vaccinations may be needed, particularly for more exotic locations.
Food Safety on the Move
Closer to home, think about food safety when they are on their trips. I have recently heard of hair raising scenarios where children are preparing food for supper and using the left-overs the next day for lunch. This is fine if you have a fridge handy, but in a camp-site the consequences of keeping cooked food for many hours without chilled conditions could be potentially serious.
Choose foods that can be kept at ambient temperatures – there are plenty of meals that come in lightweight packaging that can be cooked or eaten cold (but not saved for later once the packet is open). Where they take rice and pasta, make sure that they know not to save it for another meal, as bacteria such as Bacillus cereus could proliferate, leaving toxins behind which can cause illness.
Water is another issue. Some expeditions seem to expect children to take water from a stream and treat it with chlorine tablets. This could be potentially dangerous if the stream is heavily contaminated and contains organisms such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium which do not get killed readily with chlorine alone – normally some form of filtration is needed to be sure. There is also a risk that children may not follow the instructions closely in relation to contact time, and of course the drinking bottles and containers may become contaminated as well. Wherever possible I would advise bottled water should be provided.
Toilets are often not available or are very rudimentary, and wash basins may also not be around, even in camp-sites. This means that children need anti-bacterial wipes and hand gel to try to clean their hands as best they can.
It is particularly important that they do clean their hands before snacking and eating, especially if they have been touching surfaces which may be contaminated by animal or bird faeces.
Have a Good Trip!
Overall we don’t want to wrap our children in cotton wool, but giving them a few pointers to stay safe may help to make the trip a more pleasant experience, with good memories to recall.