ARE YOU PREPARED WHEN TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN ONBOARD?
A recent article in Travel + Leisure
detailed, interesting statistics about how many children are flying on private flights. 15-25% of flights from large charter companies have children on board.
Pre-travel advice is not always available for children like it is for adults. Parents and clinicians should work together to ensure that child & infant travellers are safe and as comfortable as possible.
Adults travelling with children can consider taking a course in basic first aid or CPR before travelling. This can be the crew, other guests as well as the parents. Medical training and CPR for children are a part of MedAire's Management of In-Flight Illness and Injury
training. Parents should assess all anticipated travel-related activities with the help of MedAire's Global Response Centre and their physician.
According to MedAire’s MedLink Emergency Response Centre
- which handles 300 in-flight calls a day from commercial and corporate aircraft - 2 out of every 10 calls involves a child (under 12 years of age). The most common emergencies: fever, febrile seizures (seizures caused by the fever rising too high in very young children), vomiting, allergy symptoms due to an allergic reaction & medical events related to a pre-existing medical condition. Other commonly reported health problems among child travellers are diarrhoea, dermatologic conditions (animal and arthropod bites), sunburn, fever reported from malaria and respiratory disorders.
Travelling with infants can be a challenge in many ways. Their immune systems are still developing, and air travel might increase their risk of catching an infectious disease. Changes in schedules, activities and environment can be stressful for children and infants suppressing their immune system, making them more susceptible to illness. Consult your physician for children and infants with chronic illnesses regarding timing and itinerary are recommended.
- Contact MedAire’s Global Response Centre to help prepare for your trip with advice for travelling with your child and information about the conditions at your destination.
- Hospital recommendations with paediatric specialities or capabilities. Can medical services be utilised or will an evacuation be needed?
- Vaccinations needed for the destination, If the child visits friends/relatives in a developing country, the child is at increased risk for exposure to malaria, intestinal parasites, and TB (tuberculosis).
- Recommendation for necessary legal documentation (custody papers, birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Contact your Account Manager to ask about MedAire’s Paediatric Medical Kit which contains the most common medications in lower dosage sublingual or liquid form making it easier for children to take.
TO REDUCE THE RISKS
- A pre-travel visit to the doctor is recommended to ensure that the child’s routine vaccinations are up to date. If the child has a pre-existing medical condition obtaining a clinician’s approval to travel with specific instructions would be appropriate.
- Frequently wash your hands and avoid contact with unwell travellers, if possible.
- Cabin pressure changes can cause temporary changes in the middle ear pressure which can cause ear pain. Offer the infant a pacifier, bottle or breastfeed during takeoff and descent to help equalize the pressure in your baby’s ears.
- Teaching your child Valsalva Maneuver (pinching the nose and blowing), yawning, swallowing or chewing can help relieve inner ear pressure in older children.
- Consider using noise-cancelling headphones, small earplugs or cotton balls to reduce the noise level thus reducing fatigue so your infant can nap.
- Use FAA recommended child seats during flight as turbulence may place your infant at risk for injury if only sitting on a parent’s lap.
- Although it is tempting to give your child or infant over-the-counter medication pre-flight to assist with sleeping this is not recommended as medications such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may have the opposite effect.
ADVICE FOR PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
- Epilepsy seizure threshold may be lowered by factors including jet lag, delayed meals, potential hypoxia and fatigue, these factors may place a child at risk for increased seizure activity.
- Type 1 Diabetes keep in mind time changes more than 2 hours that may lengthen or shorten a day may impact the amount of insulin that is needed on flights.
- Food Allergies, arrange with the flight crew for special food needs and the severity of the allergy to each type of food. Carry an EpiPen and antihistamines with you while you travel.
- Sickle Cell Anemia can pose a risk for a crisis during flight due to reduced oxygen pressure in the cabin, consult your child’s clinician in this situation pre-flight.
- Feeding tubes and infusion tubes should be capped off prior to takeoff and landing due to cabin pressure changes and gas expansion.
- Fractured Bones within 48 hours in a fibreglass or plastic casts should be bivalved to prevent pain and circulatory issues due to trapped air beneath a cast which may expand during flight.
When in doubt consult with your child’s clinician and call MedAire to see if your child is fit to fly!
Written by: Deborah Richeal, NRP, MedAire Instructor, USA