PHOENIX, ARIZONA – MedAire, an International SOS Company – a leading provider of medical, travel and safety services for passengers on planes – issues recommendations for safer airline travel with an infant. The recommendations are based on the findings of a new study being published using years of data from tracking in-flight medical emergencies. For more than 30 years, MedAire has provided in-flight medical assistance to many of the world’s airlines to assist flight crew with onboard medical emergencies, and now has the largest database of its kind tracking in-flight medical events.
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 from January 2009 through 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. The most common injuries were burns, contusions and lacerations, which were most commonly caused by spilled hot beverages or soups, followed by falls from the seat involving lap infants.
As many families are traveling for the holidays in the coming months, MedAire has developed some recommendations based on their recent research findings that may be helpful for those travelling with children this year.
“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 by taking some simple precautions.”
Recommendations for Parents Traveling with Small Children:
- Ensure children are healthy for travel- Discuss any pre-existing conditions or health issues with your pediatrician 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 preventative 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 were gastrointestinal and respiratory related. Parents should travel with their own supply of common medications such as analgesics, antihistamines, and anti-emetics 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.
- Location. Location. Location. – Choosing the right seat is important. 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. If that extra seat isn’t an option, the next best choice is a window or middle seat – many in-flight injuries occurred 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 as well as keep your little one more occupied.
- Take turns keeping children occupied – If there is more than one adult traveling in your party, 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.
- 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.