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

Lane France pediatrician

Your decision to fly depends on how serious the infection is. If your child has recently developed a bulging or acute infection, the pressure in his ears during takeoff and landing will make him very uncomfortable. Occasionally, a severe ear infection can cause the eardrum to burst. Antibiotics can usually bring ear infections under control within a day or two, and that extra time will make a huge difference in your child's comfort. If infection strikes within hours of your scheduled trip, I advise paying the fee to postpone your flight. Sparing your child unnecessary ear pain is well worth the delay.

After 24 to 48 hours on antibiotics, check for obvious signs of discomfort. If your child doesn't seem to be in pain and has no fever, he's probably ready to fly. An hour before takeoff, you can give him an infant's or children's antihistamine such as Benadryl. Just before the flight, you can give him saline nose drops to decrease congestion. If your child is uncomfortable during the flight, give him a child's pain reliever. Or you can have him suck on a bottle to help inflate the eustachian tube and lessen the pressure his ears. Child-sized earplugs can also help relieve discomfort by regulating changes in air pressure in your child's external ear.

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