Top Safety Tips when Flying with Small Children this Holiday Season

16 November 2017 ,  —



MedAire, the world’s leading provider of medical, travel and safety services for passengers on planes, and its parent company International SOS, issues recommendations for safer airline travel with an infant. The recommendations are based on the findings of a study using five 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 on-board medical emergencies, and now has the largest database of its kind tracking in-flight medical events.

Family with infants main image

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). 

Dr. Paulo Alves of MedAire, comments, ‘Of the cases involving children requiring medical help, while the majority 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.  The good news is that there are some simple precautions that parents can take to prevent or reduce in-flight illness and injury.”

As many families are travelling for the holidays in the coming months, MedAire and International SOS has developed some recommendations based on their recent research findings that may be helpful for those travelling with children this year.  

Recommendations for Parents Traveling with Small Children:

1. Ensure children are healthy for travel: Discuss any pre-existing conditions or health issues with your paediatrician prior to travelling. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 safest option is to have a child secured using an FAA approved child restraint system (CRS) at all times. Use the CRS beyond take-off 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.

4. Take turns keeping children occupied: If there is more than one adult travelling 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 minimise the time that they are not using a CRS.

5. 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 utilising remote medical assistance from emergency health care providers on the ground that can advise and assist.


About MedAire and International SOS

MedAire, an International SOS company, provides airlines with in-flight medical advice and support, at-destination crew support, aircraft medical kits, and train-the-trainer programs for in-flight medical events. Since 1985, MedAire has been a trusted provider of 24/7 in-flight medical advice; 24/7 security advice, information and contingency planning; crisis management services for medical needs after accidents or serious incidents, medical and security support for crew while on duty travel; passenger fit-to-fly assessments; medical kits and equipment; crew medical training; and pre-travel medical review of MEDIF/MEDA. For more information visit

International SOS ( is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company.  We care for clients across the globe, from more than 850 locations in 92 countries.  Our expertise is unique: More than 11,000 employees are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists.  Teams work night and day to protect our members.  We pioneer a range of preventative programmes, strengthened by our in-country expertise.  We deliver unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest.  We are passionate about helping clients put ‘Duty of Care’ into practice.  With us, multinational corporate clients, governments and NGOs can mitigate risks for their people working remotely or overseas. 

About University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

Internationally renowned, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is a full-service children’s hospital and paediatric academic medical center with experts in 16 medical divisions and 11 surgical specialities who offer nationally ranked care not available at other institutions in the region, including a center dedicated to adolescent and young adult cancer treatment and Northeast Ohio’s only single-site provider of advanced maternal fetal medicine and neonatology services. As an affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the only Level I Paediatric Trauma Center in the region, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital offers access to novel therapies, advanced technologies and clinical discoveries long before they are available nationwide. Rainbow paediatric specialists – all of whom also serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine – are engaged in today’s most advanced clinical research and are widely regarded as the best in the nation – and in some specialities, the best in the world. Learn more at