Helping Your Child Navigate Flight Stress

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During the holidays, most families are traveling with their children. Be it a baby, a toddler, or a preschooler, every crowded airplane during the holiday season has a young one that possibly needs help getting comfortable. We at Angel MedFlight—industry leaders in safety—would like to stress the importance of being prepared to prevent any form of injury or discomfort for your children when traveling the friendly skies. Consider the following:

When the Pressure Is On

Takeoffs and landings can be uncomfortable and unnerving for small kids, not just because of the likely unfamiliarity with flying or noise, but because of the rapid pressure changes in children’s middle ears. Since the Eustachian tubes in little ones are still developing, equalizing air pressure during takeoff and landing doesn’t happen as easily for their little bodies as it does for adults.

What you can do for your child to help gain pressure equalization:

  • Breastfeed, give a bottle, have child sip water with a straw;
  • Give gum, hard candy, or a pacifier;
  • Encourage the child to yawn;
  • Consider giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen just prior to the flight to minimize discomfort;
  • If your little one is sick or has an ear infection, consider delaying the flight or consult your pediatrician for recommendations.

The Bumpy ‘Road’

Flying isn’t just hard on the ears; it can jostle your little one about as well. One reason our lightweight laptops, drinks, and bags are stowed is to prevent them from flying through the cabin given the wrong set of circumstances. Consider the aircraft taxiing to the runway or gate, and then having to make a sudden stop. There is also the possibility of turbulence, which injures numerous people every year—especially those without their seatbelts safely fastened.  Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on ways to help keep your child safe while flying:

  • The FAA permits children under 2-years-old to be restrained in an adult’s lap, but consider purchasing a seat for that child instead;
  • If your little one is under 40 pounds, restrain her or him in an FAA-approved car seat that includes a Child Restraint System (CRS);
  • The car seat is appropriate if it accommodates your child’s age, weight, and height;
  • Consider purchasing an FAA-approved Child Harness Device (CARES).

There’s No Time Like Play Time

Everyone knows that children are curious creatures full of robust energy who are motivated by the exploration of unfamiliar places. Who can blame your little tigress for breaking her bonds and scrambling for the aisle or your baby boy staging a coo by crying in frustration? While it’s best to remain strapped into your seat, if you have to stroll the aisle with your little one, do so when it’s safe— when the fasten seatbelt sign is off. To help fend off unsafe exploration, boredom, and discomfort, pack the following items:

  • Food and snacks;
  • Permitted fluids (breast milk, formula, and juice);
  • Diapers;
  • Plenty of wipes;
  • Changes of clothes;
  • Pacifiers;
  • Toys including crafts like stickers and storybooks;
  • iPad or video player;
  • Baby harness so you can wear baby while you stroll.

Traveling during the holiday season will challenge your reserves; traveling with children may push you over the edge during this stressful time if you aren’t prepared. Just as we coordinate every detail of our patients flights, we suggest you also think about the Bedside-to-Bedside® approach for planning your trip this holiday. Think of everything you will need for the comfort of your child’s flight from ground to air and back down again. Safe travels!

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