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Must-have first-aid essentials when flying with kids

While you may have a first-aid kit in your car, it’s also important to pack first-aid essentials when flying with kids.

We were taken aback when we heard of a recent study by Duke Health University that found that first-aid kits on planes do not have paediatric versions of the medications. This includes liquid pain relievers and allergy medications.

What the study revealed

The study, which looked at 77 airlines across six continents, has raised awareness of this issue. As children represent almost 16% of emergency events on a plane, these incidents are not as rare as you might think. Alexandre Rotta, lead author of the study and chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in the USA, notes: “Both airlines and parents should be aware of the most common illnesses and be prepared to deal with them. Our study provides this much-needed information.”

The study, published recently in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, recorded more than 11 000 incidents on 77 international airlines over a 20-month period where children required emergency attention. The study found that most of the incidents were handled by the flight crew on board (86,6%). However, in 9% of the cases, doctors who were passengers, were asked to assist. In 16% of the cases, the child in question needed additional treatment once the plane had landed and in less than 1% of cases, flights had to be diverted for immediate medical care.

The most common events recorded were:

  • Nausea and vomiting (33.9%)
  • Fever or chills (22.2%)
  • Acute allergic reaction (5.5%)
  • Abdominal pain (4.7%)
  • Stomach flu (4.5%)

Rotta, who is a pilot himself, has experienced this first hand, as he has frequently had to assist both children and adults during in-flight emergencies. He recommends that parents traveling with a baby or toddler carry any medications the child might need.

Traveling first-aid kit

Remember to pack in accordance with travel restrictions and limitations in mind:  

  • Liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Plastic syringes
  • Antihistamine syrup
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Antiseptic spray
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Saline solution
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Burn gel
  • Sticky plasters
  • Bandages
  • Gauze
  • Sterile dressings
  • Microporous tape
  • Thermometer

4 Tips on traveling with medicines

It’s no good having the kit if you can’t get it through airport security. Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. Pack in accordance to travel restrictions and make sure your liquids are within the allocated range.
  2. Keep your travel kit in a clear packet or container for visual inspection.
  3. If you need specialist medication, such as insulin syringes or EpiPen, keep these in a separate bag to show airport security.
  4. Have clear labels on any medications you have decanted, including non-prescription medications.


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