Are you planning a long-haul flight with your child? Here’s what you need to put in your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. Seriously, you may regret it if you do not pack these things in your travel first aid kit. We also have a few related recommendations and tips to make your trip easier.
We’ve looked at what to pack in your carry-on when travelling with young kids. We’ve even looked at what NOT to pack. However, we’ve just brushed over the details of your essential travel first aid kit. Now it’s time to set the record straight.
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Airlines are required to have various first aid products available when required on flights. Notoriously, these are often not suitable for or specifically designed for young children. To be safe, you need to take your own travel first aid kit, just in case.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Centre looked at 11,000 flights for 77 airlines on 6 continents between January 2015 and October 2016 and found that around 16% of all in-flight emergencies involved children. Many of these emergencies could have been avoided if the right precautions were taken and parents had packed a small travel first aid kit including certain key products.
Of the emergencies that were counted in the study, about one-third involved nausea and vomitting, 22% were fevers or chills and 5% were due to allergic reactions.
Knowing this, there are four things that are immediately going in my first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids – if they are not there already. Here are the 11 essentials that what we recommend you pack in your travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids.
Just a note: We are not medical professionals. Please see medical advice from a medical professional if you have any concerns about taking a long-haul flight with a particular ailment.
The essential travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids
This travel first aid kit works not just for long-haul flights, but is also great for any travel with kids, whether train, road trip, bus or cruise.
Twice I wished I had a better equipped travel first aid kit for our long-haul flights.
The first time was one of Miss M’s very first flights – one of our return flights the first time we went to Australia. Shortly after changing flights in Dubai, I noticed that Miss M had a quickly spreading rash on her chest. I had no idea where it came from and did not know if it was an allergy or a virus.
Concerned that it might develop into something more serious, I sought help from one of the members of the cabin crew. She gave me a thermometer to check Miss M’s temperature and called the on-call doctor.
After speaking to the doctor about the symptoms and taking a number of photos of the rash. The doctor thought it was probably a form of heat rash and prescribed some medicine that they had on board. It turned out it was a type of paracetamol, but I did know this originally. Luckily I had some in my bag because the doctor was having difficulty trying to work out how much Miss M should be given and how to measure it – it was adult strength and they did not have a measuring cup with low enough markings for the amount Miss M was supposed to take.
A tip: Don’t use any creams other products on a flight that you do don’t use regularly. A long-haul flight is not the time you want an allergic reaction.
Something to help with fever and reduce pain
Your travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids should include some paracetamol or similar pain reliever. It will help combat fever and reduce pain. Paediatricians in different countries have different recommendations. Take the pain relief that your doctor recommends – paracetamol, ibuprofen, Tylenol…
If your child is still quite young, consider using suppositories. These are easier to dose than most liquid forms and you don’t have to worry about liquid restrictions.
Make sure you also pack the measuring cup or syringe needed to dose the medicine.
While you are at it, pack your preferred pain medication for yourself, too.
The second time I wished that I had been better prepared involved later discovering that Miss M was sick during the flight and I could have alleviated her symptoms, had I known. And had I had some saline nose spray in my first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids.
Two days after arriving in Australia after one long-haul flight, Miss M was quite ill. After being off colour and quiet for a couple of days, she started vomiting. We went to the doctor and both of us actually tested positive for Influenza B and either caught it on the plane or had it before we left.
If I had known that we were sick before we left, we might have postponed our flight or at least packed and used some nasal spray to ensure Miss M was more comfortable. Saline spray will help even if your child is not ill. Recycled dry aeroplane air and temperature changes will often result in a blocked nose. Nasal spray can help provide relief.
While on the topic of dry plane air, bring some eye drops too!
Gummi bears, jelly beans or similar candies can also help relieve the pressure of take-off and landing. Pack some in your hand-luggage for easy ear relief.
If your child often has motion sickness from other forms of transport, make sure you include your medication of choice in your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. Suckable ginger lollypops work well.
We’ve also had success on bumpy ferry rides with placing a paper bag directly over the belly button, under the clothes. It is one of these old wives tricks that work and apparently has something to do with the belly button being a nerve centre for the body.
As a precaution, add some additional, empty ziplock bags to your travel first aid kit.
An upset tummy is one of the most common ailments on a holiday. Add some diarrhea medication to your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. And don’t drink the local water without checking first.
Again, liquid or suckable tablets if you can – they make it easier to dose your child.
Some children will always find a way to injure themselves. We’ve had fingers cut on the backpack zip or from getting stuck in the seat buckle, knees skinned getting onto the bus to be taken to the terminal, carpet burn waiting at the gate and numerous nails broken.
Gather together your own “wound kit” for your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids.
This should include bandaids. They take up very little room and can help all sorts of cuts, real and imagined. They are also very useful for rubbing shoes or scraped knees when you get to your destination. That is why bandaids are an essential first aid product for my carry-on – and my handbag.
To deal with more pronounced cuts, pack some sterile wipes to clean the wound, anti-bacterial ointment to prevent infections and a couple of gauze pads and a simple bandage to protect the wound while it heals. You may also want to pack some healing ointment, like Bepanthen.
Pack a wider bandage too, to help with adult wounds and with minor injuries like a sprained ankle.
If your child is teething, make sure you pack your favourite remedy in your travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. We had the delight of flying twice when Miss M was cutting a tooth. Teething gel and her favourite Sophie (to chew) helped.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant
Particularly in light of recent coronavirus restrictions and calls to wash hands, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes should have a prominent position in your travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. These can be used on hands and faces, but also to wipe down the seat, tray table and general area where you and your child will be sitting. This is particularly useful if your child has known allergies.
Don’t forget your face masks! Most airlines currently require passengers to wear face masks for the duration of their trip. If you are flying during this global pandemic, please check the additional requirements for your airline(s) and airports.
Interestingly, due to COVID-19, the TSA is currently allowing bottles of hand sanitizer to be larger than 100 mL in your hand luggage (up to 12 oz). These will need to be scanned separately. All other liquids must still respect the 100mL limit.
Where this is the case, allergy medications are essential for your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. Any such medication must be packed in your hand luggage. If this includes an epi-pen, pack two if you can. There have been epi-pen shortages over the past few years and airlines are not required to carry one at the moment.
Even if your child does not have any known allergies, if there are more severe allergies in your family, you might want to pack some antihistamines, with appropriate dosages, just in case.
You know better what your child needs if they have diabetes. Make sure you have all the supplies and medications to handle both low and high blood sugar. Again, diabetes medication must go in your carry-on; insulin must be clearly identified and must be packed if you are carrying insulin pumps and supplies. Please notify security officers if you are carrying diabetes supplies.
Other known issues
If your child has any other known medical issues, make sure you have all necessary medications with you in your travel first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids. Medications should be carried in your hand luggage and not be put in the hold as most medications will not react well to temperature changes. Take copies of your prescriptions, too.
Airport security (such as the TSA) allow you to take reasonable amounts (i.e. more than 100mL) of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip. These items must be declared to officers at the checkpoint for inspection.
If you are travelling with a medically complex or special-needs child, ask your paediatrician for a document outlining all medications, allergies, and any other information about your child’s condition (and any specifics about the medication, like requires refrigeration or more than 100mL required).
Other useful things to pack
We use the following things again and again during flights and holidays. I include them in our first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids, even if they are technically not first aid products.
- Hair elastics
- Moisturising lip balm
- Safety pins
- Cotton buds
- Emory board (nail file)
- Jelly beans, for low sugar levels and to help relieve ear pressure
I originally made a kit for work by filling a small pencil case with necessaries. It now forms the basis of our supplies kit. If you want a separate supplies kit, use a wedding emergency kit as a basis.
Your medical needs
As a parent, you are likely to have some things that you need to take regularly, such as vitamins, contraceptives or blood pressure tablets. Make sure you have what you need and a couple spares in your hand luggage.
I also recommend packing your favourite medications for dealing with headaches (ibuprofen), sinus pressure (nose spray and tissues), sore throat (lozenges), dry eyes (eye drops), that time of the month (tampons) and some melatonin if you are planning to use it to combat jet lag. These should all go in your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids.
Should you buy a first aid kit?
If it is easier, buy a first aid kit. There are some cute ones around.
If you are using a pre-packaged trip, make sure that it complies with security requirements (check the TSA website). You will probably also find that you need to add some things specifically for your child, in child strength.
Has it been a while since you last used your travel kit? Check that all the medications are still valid and that bandaids, for example, are still sticky and sterile. They may even need replenishing.
Other items for your holiday
Trust me: trying to locate an open pharmacy late at night in a strange city and then explain to the assistant what it is that you need when you don’t speak the same language is not exactly the ideal end to a long day of travelling.
When you are packing your travel first aid kit, make sure you include enough supplies to last for the long-haul flight, your holiday and the flight home again. Two bandaids and two ibuprofen are probably not sufficient. Consider also that some medications may require a prescription in the countries you are visiting.
There are also some other supplies to pack in your checked luggage, depending on what you plan to be doing or where you are going. If you think you might need them, buy the brands you trust and take them with you.
- Sunscreen (not aerosol)
- Aftersun lotion
- Water purification tablets
- Additional diarrhoea medication
- Electrolyte replacer powder (e.g. for Bali Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge)
- Insect repellant (with appropriate DEET level) (not aerosol)
- A tick remover card (credit card size, with ‘slots’ to help remove ticks)
- Your favourite ointment to relieve the sting of insect bite. We have a ‘stick‘ that we now use.
Sunscreens are more expensive in some countries and insect repellants can have significantly different ingredients due to local restrictions.
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Other tips and recommendations
- Are your immunisations are up to date or are boosters needed? Long-haul flights expose you to a wide variety of people from various countries for a long period of time. It is not surprising that many preventable diseases and outbreaks have been spread by air travel (and cruise ships), such as measles or the coronavirus. Many of these could have been prevented with up-to-date immunisations.
- Are there any recommended immunisations for the country or countries that you are visiting? There can even be recommendations for specific areas, like a vaccination designed to prevent certain diseases passed on by ticks, which are found in the south of Europe (but not yet in our area of Germany).
- Do travel or health warnings apply? With coronavirus, you should also check any quarantine requirements you might have to follow.
- If your medications/vitamins come in individual dosages, make sure you pack what you will need and a couple of spares to use if your flight is delayed or your luggage is lost. Better still, pack all your medications in your carry-on.
- Check that everything in your travel first aid kit complies with security requirements, i.e. less than 100 mL, preferably no aerosols. If you have any medical devices, check whether they can go through an x-ray machine.
- If you have health insurance, keep the hotline number and your policy somewhere prominent, such as with your passports or in your purse.
- Know the emergency numbers in the countries you are visiting. Most of us know that 911 is the number to use in the USA. 112 is the number for most of Europe, 000 is the emergency number in Australia and 999 is common especially with smaller nations. Wikipedia has a good summary of these numbers.
- Keep yourself and your child well-hydrated. This will help with motion-sickness and with jet-lag after your flight.
Should you travel with a sick child?
This is the big question for so many parents. How often is your child ill the evening before a big flight? Was it something they ate? Is it a stomach bug? Are they coming down with something? Are they just over-excited about the impending holiday?
Flying with a sick child will depend on the circumstances. Parents should carefully weigh the risks and benefits and consult their paediatrician if they are uncertain.
I did not know that Miss M (and I) had Influenza B when we flew to Australia. Our symptoms were relatively mild and resembled the blocked nose and dry throat that often comes from spending hours on a plane. It was only later that the severity became clear.
My general rule of thumb is that if you can’t deal adequately with all symptoms in an airplane using the products listed above and any prescribed by your doctor, you should probably postpone your trip. If you do decide to fly with a child who is ill, expect them to be clingy and whiney and lathargic and difficult for the whole flight.
Travel insurance is a relief in such situations; check your policy. If you don’t have one yet, try AXA Travel Insurance for a quote.
Be prepared: pack your first aid kit for long-haul flights with children
Given how unsuitable the first aid kits on aeroplanes generally are for kids, it is essential that you pack your own travel first aid kit. Learn from our (not so fun) experiences and pack these 11 essentials in your first aid kit for long-haul flights with kids and for your holiday after.