Q : Dear Doctors, at what age can i safely bring my newborn baby on flight? What are the precautions that I have to take and is there any situation where a baby can’t be on planes? ( Jess)
A : Dear Jess,
Earliest age for newborn baby to fly is about 2 weeks but it is recommended to delay flying till baby is older if it is possible. Age 6 months and above would be a better age to fly.
There are some risks to consider when young babies fly on air:
1) Being in an enclosed space such as a plane for hours can expose a baby to risk of infection. Most infections are airborne and baby’s immune system is not well developed below 6 months old.
2) The changes in atmospheric pressure while taking off and initial descent (usually half hour before landing) might affect baby’s ear and cause discomfort or even ear pain
3) If baby is born premature, risk of infection is even higher (advisable to fly after 1 year old)
4) If baby has underlying heart or lungs disease, please seek paediatrician advice prior flying because the aircraft cabin air pressure is lower than land and baby might need oxygen on board
5) Loud noise during flight might be very stressful to babies
1) Depending of which country you are flying to, please seek information about compulsory immunization needed about 1-2 months prior to departure. Certain vaccine cannot be given to child below 1 year old.
For example: Africa: yellow fever vaccine is compulsory
2) Beware if baby is having cold or stuffy nose: ear discomfort or ear ache might get worsen
– Consider use normal saline nasal drops to clear the nose stuffiness
– Breastfeeding, bottle feeding and sucking a pacifier do help in reducing ear discomfort because as baby swallows milk, the atmospheric pressure and the pressure in the middle ear can be equalized. Similarly, adults can chew a gum, yawn or swallow saliva to reduce ear discomfort when the plane is taking off.
3) Recent ear infections (within 2 weeks) : advise to consult ENT doctor prior flying
Situations when baby cannot be on plane:
1) Newborn babies (less than 7 days): rule differs with different airlines
2) Baby is having infectious disease like chickenpox, measles etc
I hope my explanation is helpful.
( answered by Dr Wong Wei Yin )