The anxiety associated with air travel is a common issue for many adults. However, the stress is only compounded when a fragile infant is added to the equation. According to Dr. Jay Hoecker, a pediatrician and consultant for the Mayo Clinic, it's perfectly safe for most newborns and infants to travel by air. However, considerations must be made if the baby was born prematurely or suffers from an underlying respiratory issue.
Your Baby's Age
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's acceptable to fly with an infant who's one week of age or older. Dr. Hoecker similarly warns parents that although age generally doesn't change a baby's ability to fly safely, their pediatrician might caution them against traveling unnecessarily just after a baby's birth. It's also important to determine whether additional vaccines are necessary, depending on the infant's age, if traveling internationally.
Underlying Medical Conditions
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to contact their pediatrician before flying with an infant suffering from an existing lung, upper respiratory or heart issue. An aircraft cabin's air pressure during flight is lower than on land. According to Dr. Hoecker, if your infant suffers from a respiratory condition, your pediatrician might recommend providing supplemental oxygen. Hoecker also notes that a pediatrician might recommend holding off on flying with an infant born prematurely and suffering from a chronic lung issue until he's at least one year of age.
Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows parents to hold children under the age of two on their laps, both this agency and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that parents place their infant in a child restraint system (CRS) recommended for his age and weight. A CRS is a child safety seat that's both approved for use in airplanes and motor vehicles. When choosing a restraint for your infant, check the unit's weight recommendations and that it's approved by the FAA for use on aircrafts. Generally, infants use rear-facing seats until they are two years old or until they reach the maximum weight for their seat -- usually 22 to 35 pounds. Children who have reached these limits switch to forward-facing seats with harnesses.
Potential Exposure to Infection
Protect your infant from exposure to potentially dangerous bacteria by washing your hands frequently while flying and limiting his contacts with passengers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents wipe down anything the baby might touch – including the seat back and tray table – with antibacterial wipes. Because the risk of potential exposure is so great on airplanes, the Seattle Children's Hospital recommends that parents weigh the potential dangers against the benefits of traveling with your infant if he's under three months of age.
According to Dr. Hoecker, ear tubes and ear infections aren't believed to cause a problem during air travel. However, both Dr. Hoecker and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise parents to consult a pediatrician if flying within two weeks of an infant's ear surgery or an ear infection.
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