Keeping Kids Healthy
By Sally Robinson and Keith Bly 

Traveling with children can be a challenge.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has tips for the entire family. Here are some tips to follow when traveling by airplane:

• Allow yourself and your family extra time to get through security — especially when traveling with younger children.

• Have children wear shoes and outer layers of clothing that are easy to take off for security screening.

• Talk to your children before coming to the airport about the security screening process. Let them know that their bags (backpack, dolls, etc.) will be put in the X-ray machine and will come out the other end and be returned to them.

• Discuss the fact that it’s against the law to make threats such as: “I have a bomb in my bag.” Threats made jokingly (even by a child) can result in the entire family being delayed and could result in fines.

• Similar to travel in motor vehicles, a child is best protected on an airplane when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child, meeting standards for aircraft until the child weighs more than 40 pounds and can use the aircraft seat belt.

You also can consider using a restraint made only for use on airplanes and approved by the FAA. Belt-positioning booster seats cannot be used on airplanes, but they can be checked as luggage (usually without baggage fees) for use in rental cars and taxis.

• Although the FAA allows children 2 and younger to be held on an adult’s lap, the AAP recommends that families explore options to ensure that each child has his or her own seat. Discounted fares might be available. If it is not feasible to purchase a ticket for a small child, try to select a flight that is likely to have empty seats.

• Pack a bag of toys and snacks to keep your child occupied during the flight.

• In order to decrease ear pain during descent, encourage your infant to nurse or suck on a bottle. Older children can try chewing gum, drinking water or juice through a straw or filling up a glass of water and blowing bubbles through a straw — 4 years of age or older.

• Wash hands frequently; consider bringing hand-washing gel to prevent illnesses during travel.

• Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant who has chronic heart or lung problems or with upper or lower respiratory symptoms.

• Consult your pediatrician if flying within two weeks of an episode of an ear infection or ear surgery.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.