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Travel Health & Safety Blog

Air Travel with Children

Travelling with children can be very stressful. The last thing you need is for your child to become unwell during a flight. 
Children under the age of two are not immune to in-flight medical events. MedAire, the world’s leading provider of in-flight medical advice and assistance, analysed more than 114,000 medical incidents on board over a five year period. 
They found the most common injuries experienced by the children affected were burns – most commonly caused by spilled hot beverages or soups, and contusions and lacerations following falls from seats.
“The good news,” says Dr Paulo Alves of MedAire, “is that there are some simple things parents can do to prevent or reduce in-flight illness and injury.” 
MedAire provides the following recommendations to help keep children safe and flights uneventful. 
Healthy for Travel. Ensure children are healthy for travel. Discuss any pre-existing conditions or health issues with your paediatrician prior to traveling. If your child has been sick, or becomes sick at the time of departure, share your concerns with a gate agent so a proper assessment can be made prior to take off. Taking a preventive approach on the ground will avoid an in-flight emergency where options are limited. 
Come Prepared. The most common in-flight ailments for infants and children are gastrointestinal and respiratory-related. Parents should travel with their own supply of common medications such as analgesics, antihistamines, and antiemetics should they be needed in flight. Always keep these medications in your carry-on luggage, keeping in mind you will need travel size bottles for liquids to meet TSA guidelines. 
FAA approved child restraint system. If you can afford it, you should purchase infants a seat rather than have them travel as a lap infant. The truth is that the safest option is to have a child secured using an FAA approved child restraint system (CRS) at all times. Use the CRS beyond takeoff and landing to avoid common injuries such as falling from a parent’s lap or into the aisle. 
Location. Location. Location. Choosing the right seat is important too. If that extra seat isn’t an option, the next best choice is a window or middle seat – many in-flight injuries occured when items fell from overhead bins; children fell into the aisle, collided with other passengers or the crew meal cart; or hot liquids were spilled being passed over other passengers. Keeping infants away from the aisle can reduce risks of common injuries.
Take Turns. Take turns keeping children occupied. If there is more than one adult travelling with you, take turns staying vigilant to ensure the safety of the child while the other adult rests. The longer the flight, the more antsy the child will be; be sure to bring items to keep children occupied in the seat and again minimize the time that they are not using a CRS.
Practice Safe Sleeping. While it may seem obvious, the same safety risks that apply at home apply in the sky. Always practice safe infant sleeping wherever you are, as suffocation and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) related fatalities can occur anywhere. Be careful to ensure that your lap baby is not overdressed or overheating on the plane, allowing for good ventilation when sleeping on a parent. 
Stay Calm. If you do have an emergency, stay calm and rest assured knowing that help is available. Ask the flight attendant for assistance as soon as you identify any health concerns. It is never too early for you to bring up a medical concern. In fact, the earlier it can be addressed the better. Airlines have protocols to help passengers when health incidents occur on board. The flight crew is trained in first aid and knows what to do to help in an emergency, often utilizing remote medical assistance from emergency health care providers on the ground that can advise and assist. 
About the Research: 
MedAire’s world renowned Aviation Medical Expert, Dr Paulo Alves, and Group Medical Director of International SOS, Dr Neil Nerwich, in collaboration with Dr Alexandre Rotta and the University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, examined MedAire's extensive database of in-flight medical events (IFME).
The research evaluated over 114,000 IFMEs that occurred between January 2009 to January 2014. More than 10 percent of these events involved children (newborn to age 18). While the vast majority of cases involving children requiring medical help were the result of a pre-existing medical condition or health problem; more than three percent of cases involved an injury occurring during the actual flight. Of those cases 35 percent involved children under the age of two. 
About MedAire
MedAire, an International SOS company, provides aviation and maritime crewmembers and passengers with fully integrated medical and security solutions. With one phone call, MedAire offers 24/7 access to emergency care doctors and security specialists any time of day, from anywhere in the world. 
When members need further support after their journey ends, the broader International SOS network enhances MedAire’s services throughout delivery. MedAire’s crew medical training is developed and delivered by medical professionals to build confidence and first-hand experience, while its vast array of industry-compliant and custom medical equipment has been defined by its medical and regulatory professionals based on decades of statistics and ISO 9001 quality standards.
MedAire’s MedLink, a 24/7 Global Response Centre, handles thousands of calls a year to help crew and passengers manage medical emergencies in the air and on the ground.
About University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Internationally renowned, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is a full-service children’s hospital and pediatric academic medical center with experts in 16 medical divisions and 11 surgical specialties who offer nationally ranked care not available at other institutions in the region, including a center dedicated to adolescent and young adult cancer treatment and Northeast Ohio’s only single-site provider of advanced maternal fetal medicine and neonatology services. As an affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the region, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital offers access to novel therapies, advanced technologies and clinical discoveries long before they are available nationwide. Rainbow pediatric specialists – all of whom also serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine – are engaged in today’s most advanced clinical research and are widely regarded as the best in the nation – and in some specialties, the best in the world. Learn more at