My child has an ear infection. Is it safe to fly?

My child has an ear infection. Is it safe to fly?

That depends on how serious the infection is. If your child has an acute infection or a bulging eardrum, the pressure in his ears during takeoff and landing could be very uncomfortable. Occasionally, a severe ear infection can cause the eardrum to burst.

If your child develops an infection within hours of your scheduled trip, consider postponing your flight. Ear infections usually subside within a day or two, and sparing your child unnecessary ear pain may be well worth the delay. Sometimes an airline will waive the rescheduling fee if you have a doctor's note.

Twenty-four to 48 hours after an ear infection begins, check for obvious signs of discomfort. If your child doesn't seem to be in pain and doesn't have a fever, he's probably ready to fly.

If your child is uncomfortable during the flight, you can give him the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or (if he's 6 months or older) ibuprofen.

Giving him something to drink can help inflate the eustachian tubes (the tubes that connect the middle ear to the nasal area) and lessen the pressure in his ears. But don't offer it right after takeoff – he might finish before there's much change in pressure.

Wait until you feel the pressure change in your ears, and then encourage him to drink. (Same thing when landing.)

Child-size earplugs can also help relieve discomfort by regulating changes in air pressure in your child's ear.

For more, read about traveling with a child who has a cold.

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