Air travel with infant: Is it safe?

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Air travel with infant: Is it safe?

Question

Is air travel safe for an infant?

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Answer

Air travel is appropriate for most infants. Before you fly with your baby, however, consider:

  • Your baby's age. Your baby's doctor may discourage unnecessary air travel during the first six weeks after birth, when your baby would be especially vulnerable to the germs that circulate in an airplane's enclosed cabin.
  • Your baby's ears. Changing cabin pressure during a flight causes temporary changes in middle ear pressure, which can trigger ear pain. To help equalize the pressure in your baby's ears, encourage your baby to suck on a bottle or pacifier during takeoff and landing. If your baby has an ear infection or upper respiratory tract infection, air travel may be uncomfortable. Before you travel, ask your baby's doctor about medication to ease ear pain. In some cases, the doctor may suggest postponing the flight.
  • Your baby's breathing. Some research suggests that irregular breathing is more common in low-oxygen environments — such as in pressurized airplane cabins. Although this temporary situation doesn't seem to pose problems for otherwise healthy babies, your baby's doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen if your baby has an underlying respiratory condition.
  • Your baby's safety seat. Most infant car seats are certified for air travel. Although airlines typically allow infants to ride on a caregiver's lap during flight, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Federal Aviation Administration recommend that infants ride in properly secured safety seats. For the most room, choose a bulkhead seat if you can. If your baby is fussy while you're in the air, take occasional breaks to walk up and down the aisle — as long as the crew approves moving throughout the cabin.

It's also important to think about how you'll occupy your baby during the flight. You might bring on board a teething ring, pacifier, special blanket or stuffed animal, and age-appropriate toys and books. Also be prepared to feed your baby during the flight. Baby formula, baby food, expressed breast milk, juice and water are allowed on board in reasonable quantities, according to the Transportation Security Administration. You can also take your baby out of his or her safety seat for nursing when the crew approves moving throughout the cabin.

Last Updated: 2009-12-19
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