Long flight with toddler for the first time? We ask Dr Natalie Epton, a specialist paediatrician and neonatologist, how you can make this a smooth, happy experience. Here’s her advice:
Don’t sedate your tot
“I know – everyone has told you to just give Benadryl or some other sedating antihistamine, and your life will be peachy. Please do not do this.
“Firstly, around 15 per cent of children will have a paradoxical reaction to the antihistamine. In other words, instead of having the sleeping angel you hope for, you may end up with a screaming kid scaling the walls of the cabin for the next 12 hours (believe me – I’ve been called to see them on long-haul flights before!).
“Secondly, there is good evidence that a sedating antihistamine may be dangerous for your child. There is well-documented evidence that kids under the age of eight years drop their oxygen levels slightly around six hours into long-haul flights. If you sedate them further, you run the risk of further dropping their oxygen levels, which can potentially be a problem for the developing brain.
Try natural remedies instead
Dr Epton adds more advice for long flights with a toddler:
“You could, however, try homoeopathic remedies instead. Sprinkle lavender essential oils on your child’s clothes or on a muslin cloth so he breathes in the scent. Lavender has long been associated with calming young children, and there are no risks or unwanted side effects associated with its use.
“Give him camomile tea, as well. Take some camomile teabags on the flight with you, and ask the stewards to help you make it. Remember to add cool water or allow it to cool to room temperature. Get your child to drink it throughout the flight.
How to manage take-off and landing
“If your little one is still nursing or taking a bottle of milk, try to time his feeds so he is ready to have it at the time of take-off and landing. An older child can suck a sweet if preferred.
“The act of sucking helps to reduce the pressure in the middle ear that leads to that painful “popping” sensation in the ears when the aircraft takes off and lands.
What to pack in your medical kit
“It is always worth travelling with some basic medical supplies in your hand luggage. With restrictions on carrying fluids, it isn’t practical to take a bottle of paracetamol syrup on board, but certain countries sell paracetamol in sachets, which are very handy. Alternatively, you can pre-fill a syringe with the correct dose of paracetamol syrup and carry it in a plastic box in your hand luggage.”