Medical Q&As

Air travel - during infancy?

At what age is it safe and comfortable for a 9 month old baby to undertake a short to medium distance flight and at what age could a baby take a long haul flight such as Australia? What are the potential difficulties (if any) that might arise?

Most major world airlines have removed all restrictions that formerly banned air travel in the first few weeks of life. Therefore you can take it that your nine month old child is fit to fly short as well as long haul journeys. Healthy infants have well developed lungs and they tend to have high haemoglobin levels, haemoglobin being the special compound in the blood that carries oxygen. Air travel might be risky for a child with a congenital abnormality of the heart or one with serious abnormalities of the lungs. Severe anaemia would also be a contraindication to air travel. However, these considerations only apply to a small number of children. There is evidence to suggest that passengers are at more risk of contracting respiratory infection following air travel. The possible reasons for this include passengers being confined to a very small space, the re-circulation of cabin air and the dry nature of the air in the cabin. This dry air might facilitate the passage of organisms through the lining of the nostrils because this tissue also becomes very dry. Saline drops might be of help to keep the nostrils moist during long haul flights. It is also important that passengers should drink plenty of water on a flight. This applies to passengers of all ages. Drinking water and sucking help to keep the Eustachian tubes open which is an important consideration in preventing ear pain during the flight. You might also consider bringing the child’s own blanket and pillow for the flight because many major airlines exchange pillows and blankets only when they are visibly soiled.