Flying with a toddler is no cakewalk, especially when it comes to ear pain. It's generally considered safe for toddlers to travel by air, but the fluid buildup associated with ear infections can leads to discomfort. As the plane changes altitude, passengers often feel discomfort due to air pressure fluctuations. When your toddler is flying with an ear infection, the Eustachian tube is often unable to open normally to equalize that pressure.
Pain is the most common problem when flying with an ear infection, but a ruptured eardrum is also a possibility. Managing your child's illness alleviates some of the discomfort to make the flight easier for the entire family.
See a Doctor
Visit your child's doctor or an urgent care clinic as soon as you realize he has an ear infection to get him started on antibiotics, which usually begin alleviating symptoms in 24 to 48 hours. Ask your doctor if flying is safe based on the severity of the ear infection.
Look for Clues
Assess your toddler's discomfort based on his behavior to ensure he feels well enough for flying with an ear infection. If your child is old enough to verbalize his feelings, ask him how his ears feel. Delay the flight by a day or two if possible for a toddler who is already experiencing severe ear pain.
Medicate As Necessary
Administer a dose of pain reliever an hour before the flight if necessary. A children's decongestant can relieve some discomfort if your toddler is congested while flying with an ear infection. Check with his care provider before using any medications during the flight. Follow the exact dosage for your toddler's age and weight.
Keep Things Clean
Clean and moisten your toddler's nasal passages with saline nasal spray before and while flying with an ear infection. Clear nasal passages may help his Eustachian tube stay clear and reduce the pain.
Pack a bottle or sippy cup for your child. Have him drink during takeoff and landing when the pressure changes occur to aid the Eustachian tube in equalizing pressure. Other ideas include having him blow through a straw, mimic yawning and talk so his jaws open and close.
Avoid Naps During Altitude Change
Wake up your toddler when the plane takes off and lands. If he's sleeping, he'll swallow less, causing the pressure in his ears to take longer to equalize.
Things You Will Need
Saline nasal spray
If you have to reschedule your flight until the ear infection clears, call the airline to ask for a waiver of the fees. You may get out of paying the fees if your child's doctor writes a note.
A toddler crying on a plane is unpleasant for everyone, but the crying action sometimes helps equalize the pressure, similar to yawning.