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air travel
safe for an
Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
Aviation Administration
recommends that infants
ride in properly secured
safety seats. If you choose
not to purchase a ticket
for your infant, ask about
open seats when you board
the plane - in case one can
be assigned to your infant.
For the most room, choose
bulkhead seats if you can.
If you’re tempted to give your
baby an over-the-counter
medication to encourage
sleep during the flight - such
as diphenhydramine - be
cautious. The practice isn’t
generally recommended, and
sometimes the medication
can have the opposite effect. If
you still think that medication
might be the best option
for your baby, talk to your
baby’s doctor first. He or
she might recommend a test
dose at home to be sure the
medication has the intended
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. 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
In addition, be prepared
to feed your baby during
the flight. Baby formula,
baby food, expressed breast
milk and juice are allowed
on board in reasonable
quantities, according to the
Transportation Security
Administration. You can
take your baby out of his or
her safety seat for nursing
whenever the crew approves
moving throughout the
Air travel is appropriate for
most infants. Before you fly
with your baby, however,
• Your baby’s age.
Generally, age doesn’t affect
an infant’s ability to handle
air travel. Your baby’s
doctor might discourage
unnecessary air travel
shortly after birth, however.
• 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. Ear infections and
ear tubes aren’t thought to
pose problems during air
travel. If your baby is ill,
however, you might ask his
or her doctor whether you
should postpone the flight.
• Your baby’s breathing.
During flight, air pressure
in an aircraft cabin is
lower than air pressure
on land. Although this
temporary change in
oxygen level doesn’t seem
to pose problems for
otherwise healthy babies,
your baby’s doctor might
recommend supplemental
oxygen if your baby has
an underlying respiratory
condition. If your baby was
born prematurely and has
a history of lung disease,
your baby’s doctor might
recommend postponing air
travel until age 1 or later.
• Your baby’s safety
Most infant car
seats are certified for air
travel. Although airlines
typically allow infants to
ride on a caregiver’s lap
during flight, the Federal