Acclimatization in children: signs and treatment

акліматизація дитини на морі Interesting facts

Imagine that you have an album with photos from a family trip. Page one – you’re at the airport with your family, enjoying your vacation at sea, but don’t take off your jackets yet: the weather at home is so-so.

Page two – a sunny day, a beach with golden sand, azure water, your child runs to swim. Page three – a hotel room, a pale child and a scattering of pills: antipyretics, sorbents, cough suppressants…

This page is called “Acclimatization” and tells us that the child is not sick, but has not yet adapted to the new climate. Oh, how you want to quickly turn the album to the place where everyone is sunbathing, swimming and going on excursions! We will teach you how to do it.

Mandry Club has collected all the information about what acclimatization is, how to avoid it while on vacation with a child, and how to facilitate acclimatization if it does happen.


What is acclimatization?

The Big Dictionary of the English Language gives the following definition: acclimatization is the adaptation of the body to new climatic and other natural conditions.

Doctors prefer to talk not about acclimatization, but about acclimatization syndrome – a general deterioration in health and increased susceptibility to diseases due to climate change”.

It is precisely the kind of malaise, digestive upset, and fever that a child may experience on vacation. A different climate zone means a different altitude, atmospheric pressure, air temperature, and humidity. Another country means another cuisine, other products, other water.

Accordingly, new requirements are imposed on the nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. A child’s body, and an adult’s too, needs time to get used to new conditions.

The psychological factor also plays a role in the acclimatization of young children: instead of a familiar apartment, the child sees a hotel room, instead of a densely built-up street, the beach and the sea to the horizon.

The baby starts to get anxious and capricious, and it will take a few days for him to settle down in a new place. If you’re already worried, it’s time to calm down, because acclimatization is beneficial. A moderate load on the body acts as a hardening, training the ability to adapt to different conditions.

Main signs and symptoms

You may have noticed signs of acclimatization in yourself while traveling. Children experience something similar. But they have a wider list of symptoms than adults:

  • dizziness
  • chills
  • high or low blood pressure;
  • fever
  • runny nose, cough;
  • vomiting, diarrhea.

Symptoms may be pronounced or mild, or may be absent altogether. But there are several signs that can be used to understand that a child is in the process of adaptation. Why you need to remember this, we will tell you a little later.

The first sign of acclimatization is a change in the child’s usual behavior.

The child becomes lethargic, apathetic, or, on the contrary, anxious, moody, and crying for no reason. Another sign is loss of appetite. The child refuses to eat, or eats less than usual, or chooses one dish.

The cunning of acclimatization is that it can lead to exacerbation of chronic diseases. Therefore, put medicines in the travel first aid kit against ailments that have become chronic.

How long does acclimatization last and its main stages

How long the child’s illness will last depends on several factors: age, general health, and how much the climatic conditions have changed.

For older preschoolers and schoolchildren, the acclimatization period ranges from 2 to 7 days. For toddlers, adaptation to a new place can take up to two weeks.

Sometimes the following rule is suggested to calculate how long acclimatization takes: one climate zone plus one day for the body to get used to it. This means that if you are flying from Kharkiv or Kyiv to Turkey, you need to add 1 day to the average adaptation time (7 days). If you are going on vacation to Egypt, add 2 days.

Acclimatization is also delayed when crossing several time zones. During this time, we recommend monitoring the child’s condition. Acclimatization takes place in four stages, so the condition will change.

During this time, we recommend monitoring the child’s condition. Acclimatization takes place in four stages, so the condition will change.

  • Stage 1. The beginning. Within a day after arrival, the child feels and behaves as usual.
  • Stage 2. Deterioration of health. The first symptoms of acclimatization appear: change in behavior, general malaise, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever. This condition can occur on the second day of rest and last for 2-4 days.
  • Stage 3. Completion of acclimatization. On the 4th-5th day, the child’s condition improves, a good mood and appetite appear.
  • Stage 4. Complete adaptation. The body has rebuilt itself to work normally in new conditions.

ACCLIMATIZATION IN CHILDREN: SIGNS AND TREATMENTWe will tell you why it is important to monitor the child’s condition in the section “Treatment and Prevention”.

Infants, preschoolers, schoolchildren: how age affects

We have already mentioned that the speed of adaptation to new conditions depends on age. The general rule is as follows:

  • infants are the worst at acclimatization, the period of adaptation can take up to 2 weeks;
  • adaptation of preschoolers depends on the strength of the body and on proper preparation for the trip, the period of acclimatization is up to 7 days;
  • schoolchildren are the easiest to acclimatize, most often acclimatization goes unnoticed, unless a resort with an extreme climate is chosen as a vacation destination.

At the same time, each child’s body reacts to acclimatization individually. If you do not expose your child to unnecessary stress, properly prepare for the trip, and observe the drinking regimen, the vacation will not be marred by poor health.

Features of infant acclimatization

The difficulties of adaptation in infants are related to the fact that their body is only adjusting to life outside the mother’s tummy. Any change in condition, whether it’s a high fever or vomiting, is dangerous for such a baby, as it can lead to serious consequences in a matter of hours.

It is impossible to predict how a tiny traveler will react to changes in temperature and humidity.

acclimatization of the child at sea

However, children under one year old can travel with their parents. Help them to successfully adapt: for a vacation with your baby, choose a place whose climate is not much different from the usual one; prefer the moderate warmth of late spring or early autumn to the hot summer months; observe the daily routine; feed your child with foods with which he or she is already familiar; in order not to complicate acclimatization with diseases, choose sparsely populated resorts.


The older a child is, the more interested he or she is in traveling and getting new experiences. Psychological readiness for change will play into your hands: the child will more easily adapt to new conditions.

As a rule, acclimatization in preschoolers manifests itself in the form of a decrease in appetite and mood changes. Temperature spikes or indigestion are less common. To keep your child in good health and good mood, follow simple rules:

  1. even if the child’s appetite is not disturbed, offer him/her only familiar foods in the first days of vacation;
  2. do not push fruits and vegetables if they have not eaten them in large quantities at home;
  3. postpone tasting exotic dishes and any new products for later.


Traveling with schoolchildren is the easiest way to travel. Firstly, their bodies are strong enough to survive climate change without serious consequences. Secondly, if they feel unwell, they can clearly explain what exactly is bothering them. But usually schoolchildren’s acclimatization goes unnoticed.

Children of this age are already vacationing independently in children’s camps, and their condition is monitored by counselors and doctors. But still, before going to camp, instruct your child:

  • Tell him/her about acclimatization and its signs;
  • explain how to act to adapt quickly.

Acclimatization of children at sea

Seaside resorts are a favorite vacation spot for children. All parents know about the benefits of exposure to sea water and air, but many are afraid of the difficulties of acclimatization.

The acclimatization of a child at sea has no specifics. Here, the child’s well-being is affected by the temperature and humidity. The more the temperature differs from the one in your hometown, the harder it is to get used to the new conditions.

Adaptation is complicated by the combination of heat and high humidity: in dry air, heat is exchanged in the body through sweating, and with high humidity, sweat evaporation slows down.

This raises the risk of heat stroke, which may require hospitalization.

All this information is needed to calculate the duration of the vacation. If, on average, a child adapts to new conditions in 7 days, then a real vacation at sea will begin for him or her only from the second week. The duration of a vacation with an infant, who can take up to 14 days to adapt, should be at least 21 days.

If possible, try to soften the acclimatization by choosing months without extreme heat for your vacation at sea. For example, in Greece, babies feel good in May and September.

As a rule, in temperate latitudes, May and September are also quite warm, so the child’s body does not experience stress from a sudden change in air temperature.

There is one trick that simplifies acclimatization: if you have already vacationed with your child at a seaside resort once, then the second trip to the same resort will go without complications.

Adaptation to the cold

Tourists take their children with them not only to hot resorts. Parents who love skiing try to instill this healthy hobby in their children. In order not to negate the benefits of skiing, you need to know how acclimatization goes in cold latitudes.

When adapting to winter resorts, symptoms usually arise that are not similar to those of acclimatization at sea. The main sign that the child’s body has perceived the climate of the resort as unusual is drowsiness during the day, fatigue not related to physical activity, and sometimes insomnia.

In the ski resorts of Austria, Germany, and Bulgaria, winters are mild, without severe cold, and children adapt relatively easily. The climate of Finland is more difficult to tolerate. The main reasons for difficulties with adaptation are severe frosts (sometimes down to -30°C) and short daylight hours. When the morning twilight dissipates only by noon, and it starts to get dark in the afternoon, children may experience light starvation.

child acclimatization

If you are going to vacation in the northern latitudes for a week or two, it is unlikely that the lack of light will seriously affect your child. But you may notice sadness, loss of energy, or apathy. There are effective remedies for such boredom – you will read about them below.

In mountainous terrain

Mountain resorts are not just about skiing. In summer, the mountains are popular with lovers of quiet, contemplative relaxation and those who want to improve their health. But before the mountain climate becomes healing, you also need to adapt to it. As a rule, staying in the mountains at an altitude of up to 2000 meters is easy to tolerate. Resort villages are most often located at much lower altitudes: for example, Borjomi (Georgia) is 850 meters above sea level, and Gastein (Austria) is 830-1000 meters above sea level. High in the mountains are the ski slopes: in the Schladming-Dachstein region (Austria), you need to climb to an altitude of 2700 meters to go down.

Read also: Holidays in Germany: where to go

At altitudes above 2500 meters, oxygen deprivation can be felt. Here’s how the lack of oxygen in the mountains manifests itself: the heart beats rapidly, nausea, shortness of breath and tinnitus, headache or dizziness, weakness and fatigue appear. The temperature does not usually rise during acclimatization in high altitude areas. The most serious case of acclimatization in the mountains is altitude sickness. It occurs if a person climbs to a high altitude without adapting to the lack of oxygen. You are unlikely to encounter this condition if you do not plan to climb without preparation to altitudes above 2500-3000 meters above sea level (and stay at such altitudes for a long time).

Acclimatization after the sea, or reacclimatization

After the vacation, the child returns to the familiar environment, enjoys his or her home – and suddenly loses his or her appetite, complains of nausea, or falls down with a high fever. Do not rush to write it off as an infection picked up on the road: this is what acclimatization looks like.

Reacclimatization is getting used to the familiar conditions of existence that the child has become accustomed to during the vacation.

It’s easy to recognize acclimatization in children after the sea: the symptoms are the same as with acclimatization.

  • High temperature.
  • Runny nose and cough.
  • Digestive disorders.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Unusual lethargy or, conversely, increased excitability.

Reacclimatization in a child also depends on how much the temperature differs at the place of rest and at home. If you go to Bulgaria in early summer, it is likely that adaptation will occur unnoticed.

But a trip to hot Thailand in winter and then returning from the heat to the cold is a lot of stress for the body.

Nevertheless, after the sea, we recommend that you arrange a few days off for your child. Even if he or she feels well or the symptoms of acclimatization are very mild, allow your child to skip kindergarten, eat only when he or she wants to, and sleep more than usual (especially if you crossed several time zones on the trip).

If your child needs to have routine vaccinations, postpone the procedure for a few days.

Treatment and prevention

Acclimatization is a natural process: all body systems are rebuilt to work in new conditions. Give the body time, and it will cope with the task on its own.

Your main task is to help your child to adjust. To do this, you need to follow only three rules: provide sufficient drinking, do not feed in the absence of appetite, and do not expose him to heat.

But even if these conditions are met, the child can get sick. In this case, symptomatic treatment is required. The temperature does not always rise strongly and often subsides without pills within 24 hours. High fever should be treated with antipyretics.

It is necessary to bring down the temperature in the same cases as with acute respiratory viral infections: if the thermometer reads 39° or more, if the child feels unwell with a slight increase in temperature, and if the child has nervous system diseases. Digestive disorders are most often associated with the fact that the water and food at the resort are different. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are treated with sorbents and medications that replenish fluid loss.

acclimatization of a child on vacation

Antiviral, antibacterial, or antiemetic medications should be used only as prescribed by a doctor.

Nasal congestion, sore throat, and cough are also treated with conventional medications. Often, all these manifestations can be removed by one action – rinsing the nose with saline (you can use saline drops or spray).

Be sure to take a first aid kit with you on your trip. Yes, resorts usually have pharmacies, but if your child gets sick at night, there will be nowhere to look for medicine. In addition to antipyretics, sorbents, and oral rehydration products, keep medications for chronic diseases and anti-allergic agents at hand.

Sometimes ginseng tincture, Eleutherococcus extract, and multivitamins are recommended as acclimatization preparations. You should consult your doctor about whether to give your child these remedies. Note that ginseng tincture and Eleutherococcus extract are contraindicated for children under 12 years of age.

It is not always easy to distinguish acclimatization from ARVI or poisoning. As a rule, if a child’s health deteriorates on the second day of rest, this is a sign of acclimatization. The reason for an urgent visit to a doctor is a very high temperature in a child, dehydration and the inability to give the child a drink due to vomiting, the appearance of blood in vomit and feces, and no improvement on the 4th-5th day. This is life-threatening and may indicate a disease.

We recommend taking out health insurance for any trip. Find out in advance where you can go to in the country of rest if your child gets sick.

Instead of deciding how to deal with acclimatization, it is better to learn how to mitigate symptoms or prevent them. Here’s what you can do to do this:

  1. Follow the usual daily routine on vacation.
  2. If there is a shift in the regimen due to moving to a different time zone, gradually accustom the child to the new regimen a week or two before the trip.
  3. Do not change the baby’s diet, and for older children, carefully add new dishes and exotic foods.
  4. If possible, bring water for the baby from home.
  5. Do not feed your child if he or she is not hungry, but give him or her plenty of clean water, table mineral water, and dried fruit compote throughout the day.
  6. Gradually increase the pace of rest. In the early days, don’t sit on the beach for hours, swim in the sea in moderation, and don’t get carried away with excursions.
  7. Choose only the morning and evening hours for relaxing on the beach and for active pursuits.
  8. Provide comfort in the place of rest: moderate temperature in the rooms, fresh air, access to clean drinking water.
  9. Do not allow your child to overheat while walking.
  10. Use sunscreen, don’t forget about an umbrella, and dress your child in light, light clothes made of natural materials.

How to adapt to cold and mountainous climates

If you are planning a vacation with your child in colder latitudes, prevention will look different. Here’s what you need to do to make acclimatization easier:

  • Take care of warm clothes and shoes that do not get blown or wet.
  • Increase the amount of hot and nourishing food.
  • Do not forget to drink warm water.
  • Stay outdoors during daylight hours.
  • Take vitamin C or multivitamins on the advice of a doctor.
  • Delight the child – for example, give him or her a trip to Santa Claus’ residence.

The main way to help a child who feels unwell in the mountains is to descend from high altitudes and provide complete rest. If the child has been exposed to altitude sickness, special treatment may be required.

How to Avoid Acclimatization: Tips for Caregivers

  1. Choose the time and place of the vacation so that the temperature difference is relatively small.
  2. Calculate the length of the vacation so that the child has time to fully acclimatize.
  3. Don’t let your child get sick while traveling. Dress him/her according to the weather, choose clothes that can be put on and taken off if it is cold or hot during transportation.
  4. On the plane, put saline drops in your child’s nose and give him or her plenty of water to keep the mucous membranes from drying out.
  5. If your child is prone to middle ear infections, apply decongestant drops to the nose before the plane lands.
  6. When traveling with a child under the age of 3, choose resorts where the climate is the same.
  7. Plan a trip no earlier than 1.5-2 months after the scheduled vaccinations.
  8. Train your child’s body by walking in the fresh air all year round. The only time you should not go for a walk is during the hottest hours of summer.

Have a safe trip!

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