Let’s face it, long flights with children can be testing…. well the word nightmare will probably resonate better with many parents. Just ask Mirit Murad, a life and parent coach based in Vancouver, Canada. Mirit flies alone with her three young children across the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis. “The way I cope with the challenge is to ask for help from other passengers”, she says in an interview with MedSchoolForParents.com.
Mirit described the experience as tiring more than stressful, and that a mothers’ best friends on flights are food, toys and electronic devices that help pass the time. When the children were younger, Mirit would occasionally give them antihistamines to encourage sleep during the long flight. She also implemented a no rules method on flights, “whatever makes them happy and quiet".
For many parents, the use of antihistamines during long flights helps to keep everything “under control”, but like any other medication, there are risks associated with antihistamines.
“Many parents don’t like to hear that, but I ask them to ‘stay calm and don’t medicate’ because of the risks associated with antihistamines in large dosages”, says Dr. Ran Goldman, MedSchool ForParents .com Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician at BC Children’s Hospital, in Vancouver. “Parents use antihistamines for their side effect of sedation, but forget that rarely the sedation may be very deep and that there are other rare side effects such as hallucinations, agitation and breathing difficulties”.
Children under the age of 2 should not be using antihistamines unless specifically advised by a medical practitioner because of the rare, but harmful, side effects. The common side effects of antihistamines include constipation, blurred vision, dry mouth, some confusion, and difficulty urinating. “These are many side effects children can not communicate as well as adults”, suggests Dr Goldman. Less common side effects are insomnia, hallucinations, itchiness, and nightmares.
But there are many other ways in which parents can safely protect other passengers from a crying baby or a toddler, and allow their children a comfortable journey between countries with little motion sickness:
Distraction is magical - divert the child’s attention outside the window, on a screen or with picture cards
Try to minimize reading or focusing on games when travelling
Try to sit over the plane’s wing to make the ride less turbulent
Avoid heavy meals before or during travelling: keep the Big Mac for a more settling occasion
Avoid overheating and bundling. Sometimes planes can feel freezing, especially when tired, but overheating adds to the sensation of sickness
Bring a beloved pillow from home, or a headrest to avoid excessive head movements
Don’t forget a soft comfort-object used at home that will help your child relax, feel secure and fall asleep
Try to recline the chair as much as possible
Bring snacks and non sugary drinks
Try to maintain your child’s sleep and eating schedule
Have adequate support on the plane i.e. ensure that there are enough adults to care for the number of children flying
If ear pain is the reason your child is screaming, there are a few options. Ear pain occurs during take off and landing due to changes in pressure. Simple measures include encouraging swallowing, whether with sugar free gum, if the child is older, or feeding in infants (‘breast is best’). Ensure your child is drinking lots of fluids. Try to keep your child awake during take off and landing, as children swallow more often when awake, and it can be frightening for a child to wake up with ear pain. Avoid flying when your child has an ear infection. If you feel that your child requires stronger pain relief, discuss the need for eardrops with your pediatrician.
Time to fasten your seat belts and have a safe ride!
Updated : 03/08/2017
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