As a former scout and medic and a current fire captain, I love getting outdoors and hiking. I’ve had so many personal backpacking and camping adventures. Now, I’m happy to share my passion with my family. We try to get out at least once a week for family hikes. Lately, we’ve noticed an increase in those we see hiking, both on the trails alongside us and sharing their pics on social media.
If you’re new to hiking or just looking for some reassurance that you are prepared for anything on the trail, we’re here for you! We’re sharing tips for planning and packing for family hikes and what to do if something goes wrong. We hope you learn something new here. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere!
5 Things to Consider When Planning Family Hikes
Pick a trail that is age appropriate for your kids.
Younger kids may like trails that are more scenic and flat. If your kids are older, they may be up for the challenge of going on more adventurous family hikes. If you have young children and older ones, you can use a backpack style kid carrier for your younger kiddos and still hit those more challenging trails.
But where do I find these trails? Fear not!
There are countless resources on the internet if you just search “best hiking trails for kids (insert location here).” I use an app called AllTrails. It gives ratings provided by other users based on difficulty level, scenery, and any other notable particulars.
Pack a first aid kit.
Your first aid kit for the average family hikes doesn’t have to be an all out apocalyptic survival bag. It just needs the basics, like bandages of different sizes, antiseptic wipes, anti-itch cream, and antibiotic wipes.
If you’re going on longer hikes, consider adding a whistle and signaling mirror to call for help if needed, iodine tablets for water, and moleskin for blisters. You can shop our take-along first aid kits right here.
Bring plenty of water and snacks.
This one is really important. There are different varieties of water carrying options. You can use a water bottle, water bladder, or even a water backpack. The key is to continually hydrate throughout your hike rather than chugging it when you take a rest or make it to the summit.
Ideally, you should be drinking small sips every 15-20 minutes. You may want to drink more often in higher elevations and when the weather is colder. It’s a good idea to bring some electrolyte packets or sports drinks, too, but be mindful of the sugar content of some of those sports drinks.
Don’t forget your maps and/or GPS.
Most mobile phones have GPS and mapping apps that will keep track of your location while you’re out and about. Like I mentioned above, we prefer to use an app called AllTrails, but there are some other great ones, too. If you’re in a remote area with no cell service, you can still use GPS or a good ‘ole-fashion paper map and compass. Knowing your exact location will help you summon emergency services if needed.
You’ll need sunscreen and bug protection.
Sunscreen is important even if you feel like you’re being shaded. It’s especially important on open trails with no natural sun protection. Make sure you’re using the appropriate sunscreen for your skin type.
When it comes to bug protection, we prefer to use products with a picaridin or DEET. Those products seem to be more effective. There are even some outdoor clothing manufactures who impregnate the fabric with picaridin!
Dress appropriately and be prepared for any changes in weather.
Before you head out, make sure you take a look at the weather forecast. There are many times you may start out on a hot sunny day and then it starts raining on you. This occurs quite frequently in higher elevations.
Good sturdy shoes are a must. If you’re just heading out for an easy day hike on a flat trail any closed toe shoe will do (this goes for the kiddos too if they’re walking). Who knows when you or your kids will unintentionally kick a rock…OUCH!
If you’re going for a longer or more challenging hike, good shoes are a must. Speaking of musts, good socks prevent blisters. I use wool socks or a synthetic derivative such as Smartwool.
4 Things to Have on Hand.
Snacks for the kids. Make sure it’s something they really like!
Binoculars to look at nature without getting too close.
A notebook with crayons or colored pencils. This is a great activity for kids who like to draw and journal their findings on their hiking adventure. Many state and national parks have junior ranger programs. They have activity books and scavenger hunts so that your kids can earn their junior ranger badge.
A good size, comfortable backpack. For me, I do not skimp on the backpack. Since I’m usually the one carrying everything, I want to be comfortable. There are also hydration backpacks and options to add a water bladder to your existing pack.
3 Common Hiking Injuries and How to Treat Them.
Scrapes or abrasions:
The most common are scraped knees and elbows when you or your child trip on the trail. The best thing to do is use water to rinse out any dirt or debris in the wound, place an antibacterial ointment on, and an appropriately sized bandage. The key is to thoroughly clean and scrub out the wound with soap and water when you get back home.
You certainly can receive deeper cuts when on family hikes. It can be from a fall or from scraping a sharp rock or a branch. The best thing is to keep them clean until you can get more advanced care.
If you receive a deeper cut that requires stitches, first rinse it out with clean water and remove any larger debris. Apply antibiotic ointments to the area and cover it with clean bandages or dressing. You can use skin glue with a combination of steri-strips (wound closure strips) to seal up the wound if you’re not close and able to quickly receive advanced medical help.
Bug and animal bites:
Generally most small bug bites are not serious unless you have an allergy to them. For most, it’ll just be redness to the area, minor swelling, and itchiness. Those can be treated with some ice packs and anti-itch cream to the area. You can consider some antihistamines as well.
If the person that you’re treating starts developing more serious signs and symptoms of an allergy like decreased or altered mental status, difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or hives all over the body, they need immediate medical assistance. Call 911 or find a way to get help immediately.
There are animals and bugs that are dangerous to humans and they vary from region-to-region. You need to be aware and research what they look like before heading out. That way you can avoid them or know what to do if you get bit by one.
Hopefully you’ve found this guide to family hikes easy to use and super informative! If you’re looking for more info on common kid emergencies, check out our FREE handbook for moms! And don’t forget to grab a PreparaKit if you don’t already have one.
I think it’s safe to say that kids, in general, know they need to wash their hands when they’re dirty. When my kids were young, they learned a few techniques for washing their hands. They would sing Happy Birthday twice or the ABC Song. It’s pretty simple to explain to our kids why they need to wash their hands if they’re dirty. Just like we wash our dirty laundry and dirty dishes – we also need to wash our hands when they’re dirty.
But what about when their hands aren’t visibly dirty? Like, after coughing into their hands or touching a surface that may have germs. How do we explain the need to still wash our hands regularly to avoid germ spreading to young children?
If they can’t visibly see that their hands are dirty, it can be hard for them to understand the need for thorough hand washing. ⠀
Here are two simple tricks to teach your kids how germs are transmitted:
Do an experiment or show your kids a video that demonstrates how easily germs can travel.
While knowing how and why germ spreading happens, hand washing is – hands down – the most valuable action we can take to prevent the spread of germs.
Here are some fun activities to do with your kids that will teach them just how important washing their hands is in preventing germ spreading. ⠀
The Spray Trick:
Grab a water spray bottle and fill it with water. Get some paper and line it on a table or counter top. Pretend to sneeze or cough and at the same time, spray some water to mimic what actually comes out of your mouth/nose if you don’t cover your mouth.⠀⠀
Now, do the same thing but this time, cough and spray the water directly into your hand or elbow crease as if you had covered your mouth/nose while coughing/sneezing.
Compare how much of the water was caught in the hand or elbow fold and how much landed on the paper. Have your children note how many less germs were spread by covering when coughing/sneezing.
Also, have them look at the “germs” caught in their hand and encourage them to thoroughly wash their hands post cough/sneeze. ⠀
By having them see this in action, they are more likely to be aware of it the next time they cough or sneeze.⠀⠀
Touch and Tag:
Ask your children how many objects or places around the house they touch every single day. Remind them of how easy it is to leave germs on these surfaces each day as they touch them.
Go around your house and tag or mark each of these areas with a label or sticky note to remind your child that they’ve just touched a high risk germ source. Encourage them to wash their hands after coming in contact with high germ sources in your house and at their school. ⠀
When we role play germ spreading, I pretend to be one of my kids and do exactly what I have witnessed them doing (or not doing). I have the kids role play as the adults and instruct me of what I should be doing to reduce the spread of germs.⠀⠀
First, I role play what my kids do or don’t do after blowing their noses.
Next, I role play touching loads of surfaces around the house and then NOT washing my hands.
Then, I role play washing my hands too quickly, not thoroughly enough, or without soap.
Finally, I role play coughing and sneezing without covering my nose or mouth⠀⠀
I then ask my kids what was wrong with my actions and how they, as adults, would correct my behaviors. My kids love getting to be the adult and telling me what I’ve done wrong!⠀⠀
I hope this helps a bit as a way to teach your kids how important it is to prevent the spread of germs. I’d love to hear the creative ways you teach your kids about germs spreading. Leave me a comment with your best tips and tricks.
It’s a chilly winter evening and you’re in the kitchen preparing dinner. You realize your little one has been a bit too quiet. You take a peek and he’s lying on the couch a tad more tired than usual. He’s definitely not acting himself so you put your wrist to his forehead. Your little one has spiked a fever and you start to panic. Do you bring him in? Do you wait it out at home?
I’ll bet this scenario sounds familiar to most moms. The thing is, if you take the steps to educate and prepare yourself for that inevitable fever, you’ll be far less likely to panic and overreact when it hits.
Here’s our guide to all the facts a well prepared mom needs to know about fevers.
What exactly is a fever?
A fever is an elevated temperature over what is considered standard. A standard human body temperature is 98.6F. An elevated temperature is typically the result of a viral or bacterial infection. As the body attempts to fight off the attack, body temperature rises.
Though fevers are scary, they are also a sign that our bodies are working properly to protect us.
Why do children get fevers?
Since a fever is, essentially, a symptom of a larger issue, there is no simple answer as to why your child might have a fever. Fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. You may already be aware of the infection, what it is, and where it came from – but you might not.
Kids can pick up infections almost anywhere. In the winter, during the school months, and during flu season, it becomes even more likely. Think – stomach bugs and respiratory virus galore. Unfortunately, kids aren’t as conscious of covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough or even washing their hands. So it’s very easy for a child to get the “bugs” by being coughed on or by touching a common surface area like door knobs without even realizing it.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s also not uncommon for a child to spike a fever after receiving an immunization. This is simply a sign that the immune system is strong and functioning properly.
Symptoms of a Fever
Since a fever is an elevated body temperature, the very first symptoms or complaints from your little one will likely be chills and body aches. The most common symptoms are changes in appetite, mood, or behavior and activity level. And of course, an elevated body temperature.
What is the best way to measure if your child has a fever?
There are multiple different ways to measure your child’s temperature and some are more accurate than others. The biggest factor will be your child’s age. This will determine what the best type of thermometer to use will be. Temperature can be measured rectally, by ear, temporally, orally or axillary (armpit).
The Mayo Clinic offers the following thermometer recommendations based on your child’s age.
Birth to 3 months. Use a digital thermometer rectally or temporally.
3 months to 4 years. Use a digital thermometer to take a rectal, axillary or temporal temperature reading.
4 years and older. Use a digital thermometer to get an oral, axillary, or temporal temperature reading.
The key is – whatever method you choose, you must remain consistent. Switching thermometer types and comparing different methods each time you take your child’s temperature will only get confusing. To get acquainted with your child’s normal temperature range you’ll need to use the same type of thermometer every time.
At Home Care
Fevers and their accompanying symptoms can be very scary for moms, especially in very young children. Often times, parents choose to treat the fever too soon. If your child can handle the discomfort, give them some extra love and cuddles, but let their little body do what it was designed to do.
If you would like to take steps to mitigate the fever at home, here’s what I suggest:
You can give your child a common fever reducer like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Be sure to check the dosage instructions based on your child’s age and weight.
Change them into light-weight clothing.
Wrap them in a thin blanket
Make sure they stay hydrated by providing plenty of fluids.
When to Head to the Doctor
It’s so important to know when to contact your child’s physician or seek medical assistance.
These are general temperature guidelines for a high fever, by age:
The information presented here is meant only for informational purposes. It is not meant to diagnose, treat or provide health advice. Anything you read here should not substitute assistance from a medical doctor.
Because of this, it’s important to keep an eye on your kids (and pets) to make sure they stay tick-free. If you do find one of the little bugs on you or a loved one, there’s a proper way to remove it quickly. You don’t want to develop Lyme Disease or end up with an infection.
The first thing you need to do when you come in from walking or playing outside is to do a quick tick check.
Inspect your legs, arms, and have someone else check the areas you can’t see yourself, specifically your scalp, neck, ears, your eyebrows and underarms. (Yes, they can and do dig in and hide themselves in the hair. Since most ticks are smaller than a centimeter, it’s easy for them to hide.)
If you’re going into a wooded area or an open area with really tall grass (higher than your shoes), be sure to wear knee-length socks, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. You can also consider tucking your pants into your socks for extra protection. (It may look weird, but it’s a lot better than Lyme Disease.) Take a shower to wash off any loose ticks and immediately throw your clothes into the dryer for ten minutes to kill any ticks with heat before you wash them.
If you find a tick on yourself, child, or a pet, there’s a method to removing it. When a tick bites you, it drives its head under the skin. If you just yank the tick off or scratch it off, you may leave the bug’s head inside you.
This alone won’t cause Lyme Disease, but it will often lead to a really nasty infection. Instead, use tweezers (or a specially designed tick removal tool) to grab the tick firmly as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight up and out. Don’t twist it or move it back and forth. Just pull straight until the tick lets go.
Aftercare for Tick Removal
After you do this, be sure to wash the bite (and your hands) with anti-bacterial soap. You can also use a medicinal ointment like Neosporin. If the bite area develops a red ring, red bumps or if the person develops aches and a fever, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Take Time to Check
The great outdoors can be a fun place to walk, play, and explore. However, you need to respect these areas by paying attention to the hidden dangers lurking out there such as ticks. Even though they can be some of the tiniest bugs in the wilderness, they can cause really severe problems if you don’t handle them properly.
There’s something about seeing our kids looking so small and helpless when they’re ill that kicks in the “mom” instinct making us want to kiss it and make it all better.
But if mom’s kisses don’t cure the problem, then you’re going to have to turn to the first aid kit or the medicine cabinet. When that happens, there are a few medicines you absolutely MUST have on hand for just such an emergency. If you don’t, Murphy’s Law dictates you’ll need the item at the least convenient time (such as in the middle of the night or when your spouse isn’t home and you’ll have to load all the kids into the car for a trip to the drugstore).
Here are three meds you need to have on hand in your medicine cabinet:
This is a nice one to have on hand as a painkiller and fever-reducer. The generic form of Motrin is ibuprofen and you can get this in pill form for your older kids or as a liquid suspension for the little ones.
It’s an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) that works by blocking inflammation to reduce pain. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, it makes Motrin an ideal choice if your child gets banged up a bit playing sports.
As a fever-reducer, it can really help.
When you’re using Motrin for a fever reducer, it may not work right away to bring the fever down but the problem is that you can’t give too many doses in a short period of time.
For example, when I give my kids motrin, I usually can’t give the next dose for another 6 hours. But if their fever is still up, I can’t wait six hours. I need to get that fever down. So in this case, I would give them some Tylenol at the mid way point, which is at the 3 hour mark. Then in another 3 hours, if they still have the fever, I can give them the next dose of Motrin because it has been 6 hours since the last time they got it. Same concept with the Tylenol. I would alternate with these 2 meds until the fever came down.
The generic name for Tylenol is acetaminophen, so be sure you look for this if you aren’t getting the name brand. Also, as with any medicine, check the weight chart for the right dosage so you know you’re giving your little one the correct amount.
The third med you really need to keep on hand is Benadryl. This is an antihistamine, so it can help with allergy relief symptoms like a runny nose or sneezing. It’s also been linked to alleviating nausea from car sickness. But what you really want this medicine for is if your child has an allergic reaction to something.
If your child starts breaking out in hives or a mild rash, you want a quick response. If your child is showing signs of swelling particularly around the tongue and mouth or is wheezing, whatever caused the reaction could lead to anaphylactic shock and time is of the essence. A dose of Benadryl will help alleviate the symptoms. It’s important you follow up with getting your child help at an emergency room as Benadryl is only intended to be a temporary measure to give you more time to get help.
How Medicines Have Changed Since We Were Kids!
Mary Poppins famously sang that a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Thankfully, a lot of these new medicines come in flavors that aren’t as awful tasting as when we were kids. But for the everyday aches, pains, and ailments your kid is most likely to develop, these are the three over-the-counter medicines you need to always have on tap at home.
You’ve probably heard a lot of “home remedies” for different ailments like burns and a lot of these have left me shaking my head.
When I was a kid, do you know what my mom used to put on burns? Toothpaste! And then there are those folks who swear by putting butter on burns. Hopefully, no one is doing that anymore.
Kids Will Be Kids
I think we all know many of the burns that kids experience are preventable. And, of course, kids will be kids.
Even though we try our best, it’s literally impossible to keep our eyes on our kiddos 100% of the time and keep them from getting into things that can burn them. Kids want to have fun and don’t always think about the consequences.
Study Reports Burns Are Fifth Most Common Cause of Accidental Death
The age group most affected are toddlers and young children (ages 4 and under). In fact, children 4 years old and younger who are hospitalized for burns are 65% likely to be the victims of scald burns with only 20% being from contact burns.
Watch Kids Around Water
Many of these scald burns come from hot tap water burns. Thankfully, regulations and the lack of open fires in homes have decreased burn injuries in the past thirty years. But they do still occur, no matter how much you try to stop them.
When dealing with burns, it can be difficult as there are so many different types and severity: thermal, electrical, and chemical burns and first-, second-, or third-degree burns. Even I have a hard time keeping track.
Determine If the Burn Is a
Hopefully, you’ll never have to experience any of these as a parent, but if you do, it’s important to keep calm and follow the steps.
If the burn is minor, a first-degree burn such as a sunburn where the skin is just reddened but still intact:
Cool the burn with cold compresses or cool water (NO ice!)
Cover the burn with a clean bandage
If you need to ease the pain of the burn, use over the counter pain meds. Also, aloe vera or burn gel can be applied for extra relief.
If the skin blisters, do not pop them. This may increase the chance of infection. Instead, just cover them and keep them clean.
See a Doctor for Any Other Type of Burn
In a child especially, the severity of the burn depends on the size and location of the burn. There’s actually a whole formula used to determine it, but I say keep it simple. If you have any doubt that it’s anything more than a minor first-degree burn, seek professional medical help ASAP. It’s better to be too careful than not careful enough!
Discuss Safety with Your Kids
With the Fourth of July festivities coming up, it’s a good idea to discuss safety around the grill, fireworks and other activities that may have a flammable element with your kids.
Hopefully, this helps to inform you a bit more if you are ever to have to deal with a burn to one of your children. Just remember, please, NO toothpaste!