Altitude Sickness in Infants

Altitude Sickness in Infants

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 27 Jun 2014 - 15:37.

Traveling by air involves flying at high altitudes and this is precisely what might cause altitude sickness. Mothers who are required to fly with an infant should be aware about the some precautions while travelling by flight such as:

  • Baby’s developmental stage: It is important for the mother to realize that when once the infant is 3 months old, the lungs are developed enough to be a victim of altitude sickness, just as the mother. The prime need is that the baby should be otherwise healthy.
  • Understanding altitude problems: Statistics reveal that about 25 percent of people get sick at high altitudes. Normally high altitude means flying more than a few thousand feet above sea level. It is difficult to pinpoint who gets affected and who doesn’t. There are some cities, which are more than 5,000 feet above the sea level, and therefore flying through such cities might show altitude symptoms. In some countries like US and Europe it is not uncommon to see parents with young children carrying portable oxygen equipment just in case, infants develop altitude sickness.
  • Child examination by Pediatrician: It is essential to get the child examined by the family pediatrician before flying at high elevations to make sure that everything else is normal and the infant is healthy. If the mother is contemplating flying with the infant on long trips it is better if she first gets acclimatized to fly short trips and gradually undertake long trips.
  • Identifying altitude sickness in the child: It is essential for the mother to identify whether the infant is suffering from altitude sickness. If the mother notices that the infant is irritable, starts throwing up, appears more tired and refuses feeds it is likely that the infant is reacting to altitude. Majority of the people get more fatigued and dehydrated at   high altitudes.

    This happens because the higher we go the less the moisture and oxygen in the atmospheric air. These changes can make it difficult to breathe properly which in turn can lead to headaches, dehydration and nausea.

  • Easing the symptoms of altitude sickness in the child: The mother should offer the child plenty of opportunities to nurse or bottle-feed the infant. She can also give the child small sips of water at frequent intervals may use electrolyte replacement solutions like pedilite to prevent an impending dehydration especially if the child is throwing up. Depending upon the elevation of the place you visit, it might become necessary to change the location to lower levels of elevation, should the child not respond to these measures in a couple of days.
  • Precautions while traveling high altitude: While it is necessary to know these precautions while traveling by air with your infant, it is also very important to identify when the child needs medical help. If the color of the baby is not good or he seems to find it difficult to breath the child must be taken to the nearest emergency room.
  • Administering of oxygen: In the emergency room doctors will first measure the oxygen levels in the blood and identify whether the child has severe altitude sickness. If this is confirmed, they will administer oxygen until the mother and child can get to a lower elevation.
  • Warm clothing: Inside the aircraft the atmosphere is very cold and the young infant may get chilled more easily. The mother should therefore, carry with her plenty of warm clothes.
  • Sun protection if traveling during the day: Also, the mother should know that at high altitudes the sun’s rays are stronger and therefore she should use plenty of sunscreen on children older than six months. Care should be taken to apply smaller layers on the hands and face if the infant is younger than six months. Better still if the child is dressed in long sleeves and kept out of the sun as much as possible.                         

This article is dedicated to those mothers who travel with their infants by air.



*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.