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Expert advice

04th Aug 2023

Doctor shares tips to stop your child crying on a plane and when to wake them up

Jody Coffey

“Flying can be torture for kids”

A doctor has provided advice to parents who are taking their children travelling and are anxious about their reactions to flying.

We’ve all been there and heard the screams of a child on take-off and landing, whether it’s our own children or another passenger’s.

While the majority of us would never judge and would do anything to ease their stress, it’s hard not to feel panicked or worried about how other passengers are feeling about the crying or screaming, and it can make the whole flight a tense experience.

Well, Irish paediatrician, Dr. Niamh Lynch, has explained why children have a harder time with take-off and offered some pretty solid advice to help you start the family holiday off smoothly.

“Flying can be torture for kids as it hurts their ears,” Dr. Lynch explains in a video shared on TikTok.

“That’s because the higher we get, the lower their air pressure gets. It’s important for everyone that the pressure in the outer ear and the middle ear is the same; otherwise, there is a lot of pressure on the ear drum.”

The pressure in the outer ear should ideally be the same as in the middle ear, otherwise, a lot of pressure will build up on the eardrum.

However, for children, whose ear tubes are smaller and do not equalise the pressure as well as adult ears, so it can cause a lot of pain for them.

Luckily, it can be helped by relieving the pressure through their Eustachian tube, and Dr. Lynch says offering your child something to suck on, be it a breast bottle or soother, will help equalise that pressure.

Once cruising altitude has been reached, things should be more relaxed, and hopefully a little snooze is on the way.

If this is the case, Dr. Lynch recommends waking your child before the plane descends, which can have the opposite effect on their ears.

This will give you time to start equalising that ear pressure again. “As the plane gets lower, the air pressure gets higher, so we have an imbalance with higher pressure in the outer ear and lower pressure in the inner ear again,” she explains.

This is what leads to that really painful pressure on the eardrum, which can result in tears during landing.

This time, parents should aim to allow air in through the Eustachian tubes, which can be achieved by encouraging older children to drink or yawn.

For babies, offering the breast bottle or soother again will help minimise their pain.

So, the next time there’s a little one crying on your flight, keep in mind they are in pain and even think about passing along the advice.

And remember, if your child screams bloody murder onboard, do not worry. Most people are understanding and can even relate to it.

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