21 answers

Advice on Flying with Toddler After Ear Infection

I am a very worried mother right now because a while back I bought plain tickets for me and my 3 yr old to go visit my parents in Europe. They are non refundable and expensive for my budget. About a week and a half ago my son got a ear infection ( his 4th since last September when he started going to preschool)and the ENT said we should not fly, even if the infection clears because it may still be fluid in his ears and that can cause his ear drum to burst. I felt a big empty ball in my stomach when he said that because this trip is very important to us and I would not be able to buy tickets till next year since I can't afford them , plus the timing has a lot to do with the plans to etc. so now I am terrified of the decision I have to make. I did as much research as I could on line on medical websites and some are quite reassuring and give advice on being well prepared for the take of and landing with meds, ear-popping techniques, special ear plugs etc. and even say that if it goes as far as the eardrum rupturing it's still not the end of the world and my son won't loose his hearing but I still am so very stressed and ridden with guilt as (right now) I still plan on getting on that airplane with him. He has been on antibiotics for the last 8 days and he's doing fine now , he's going for a hearing test FRI but if the fluid is still around (as in some kids-and he might be one-it takes a while to drain) WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?? I am so scared he will be in terrible pain while stuck in a plane and even with medication or exercises for ear he won't be consolable. There is nothing in this world that hurts me more than my own child's pain and if i could feel it for him, at least this one time I would but that's not possible so I am am so torn apart by this decision. So if anyone here can tell me about their experiences with flying with kids in somewhat similar circumstances PLEASE!!! tell me. Am I making a terrible mistake at my child's expense or it might not be as bad as my ENT put it?
There's nothing better than to hear form people who went trough it that's why I need your advice since as mothers you know where I am coming from.
thank you in advance and any story is welcome.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

Thank you very , very much to all of you for taking time to write me, I really appreciate your kind advice. I think at the time I posted the request I was very stresses but I feel better now, the pediatrician said he should be fine since the actual infection has cleared and since he did fly before (not same situation thou, not after an infection) and never complained of ear pain on landing or take off she thinks he'd pull though just fine and I will see a doctor while we're there to make sure for the return back to US. I guess flying with a small child on such a long trip is a stress in itself (first time we fly without my husband) , plus the added worry of swine flu (we live in NYC), plus the recent aviation accident (gee!!) made everything else seem worse and I have to admit I am a bit of a paranoid mama :). We still have two weeks till we go so hopefully things will keep improving, I even pulled him out from preschool for the remaining weeks (I know, paranoia again, but I can't help it)

PS: Had his hearing test today and it came back normal, the infection is gone and there's very little fluid left so the ENT gave him the OK to fly in 2 weeks from now. Phew! What a relief! Thanks again for your advice.

More Answers

B. my daughter has a hole in her eardrum and has not been healing for months now, and it's not due to eardrum rupture. that's one, it is a very heartw renching situation as it is and i would not put a child at risk for having one ruptured

2. i just cancelled my overseas trips, 4 tix, cost me 800, 200 per ticket, so you won't lose all your money just 400 for both of the tickets. i know it's a lot but it's still less than the full ticket which i am guessing ran around a 1000 for each tix.

3. if you can get your ENT to say in writing no flying for your child, the agency nor the airlines will charge you this cancellation fee. get that letter, fax it to your travel agency, and if needed fax it to your airline (doubt you'll need to do that unless you bought it from the airline directly).

no matter what others say, it's your son's doctor who said it, and he is the one you should listen. no flying for your son. i know it hurts and i know you're homesick. i am going through exact same turmoil having cancelled my trip to see my family, and there is not a night i don't feel like i am carrying a one ton sack of potatoes in my heart. but your son's health comes first
good luck

1 mom found this helpful

I had typed this whole response, but lost it...errrr...!

My pediatrician has always recommended Sudafed...the kind you have to get from behind the counter...even though it has been reported to have no or negative effects on children. I can tell you from personal experience that this is NOT true. It has helped my kids so much more than anything else on the market. My ped. gave me the correct dosages for their weight and we have never had a problem. It helps dry up the fluid behind the ears and in the sinus' thus relieving the pressure. (I still have the sheet with the dosages at home. I could email them if you want.)
My son also sees an allergist. He said claritan or zyrtec will essentially do the same thing, helps dry up the fluid and prevents more from being produced.

Long term, after you get back, you should think about tubes. Best decision we ever made for my kids. Improved their speech the very next day!

You need to know why your boy is getting ear infections all the time. Obviously the current treatment is not a solution. Most ear infections are due to consumption of pasteurized dairy products. Avoid these and he will likely be fine. They cause inflammation in the body and ears.

Since you're going to Europe, while you're there get some Otitis media injeel ampules from Heel from the pharmacy. You may need to order it so do it soon after you arrive. Take one 8 hours before flying, one half an hour before and he will be fine for the way home. I'd stock up on these for possible future ear infections. You need 3 per infection, one every 12 hours. It's homeopathic and it works. Just break off the top and put a tiny straw, the European drinking box straws are effective for this.

Xylitol is also good for ear infections. Google it and get some Xylitol gum--if he can be a responsible gum chewer that it--otherwise get some Xylitol sweetened candies. Just don't go overboard since it can cause diarrhea. Believe me you don't want that on a plane!

Supplementing with a good quality fish oil can be helpful for inflammation as well. We like Barleans Lemon Zest (contains Xylitol too). It tastes good. Not one bit fishy and no aftertaste. Use full adult strength. Available in many health food stores (look in the refrigerated area).

If you can afford to see a homeopath before you go, that would be a good idea. Homeopathy is excellent for ear infections and works considerably faster than antibiotics and won't cause any damage. I hope you've given him probiotics. If not you can message me with your email for my recommendations. The majority of probiotics are a rip off and don't work. You can even put liquid probiotics directly into the ear. Ear infections are usually accompanied by yeast and you need to get rid of that.

Enjoy your trip and relax, don't worry. Please do what you can to keep your child off antibiotics for his future health. They will eventually cause immune system breakdown. Avoid sugar. Tough to do in Europe so warn ahead of time that he shouldn't have any. Trust me, he will feel a lot better without it and along with avoiding dairy (raw dairy should be fine and also available in cheese form in most European countries) you'll have likely removed the cause for future ear infections.

Hi. I was in the same exact situation as you with my daughter, who was similar in age. While I trust my pediatrician 100% and respect everything he tells me, I chose to fly to Europe to visit my inlaws, and she was fine. If you can, maybe you can give her a decongestant, if necessary. That said, you know your child best. Have a nice time!

Most Airlines will give you a credit, less a small penalty, for medical emergencies, ask your doctor to write a letter as to why you cannot fly at this time. Sometimes if you reschedule at the same time as cancelling there will be no penalty. Be strong on the phone with the agent, their job is to say no. Ask for a supervisor if you cannot get what you deserve.

Hi....when my son was 2 years old he had ear tubes inserted cause of the fluids so when we travel we put on ear tubes which you can buy anywhere....your son won't feel a thing. Matter of fact the whole family wears them and never a discomfort... it helps alot...By the way my son is now 13. I hope this information helps you..

I was worried about my daughter when we flew to Texas from PA. She gets ear infections all the time.

What I did was make sure she had her sippy cup and some snack crackers to eat when we took off and when we landed. The chewing helped relieve the pressure.

Good luck and have a safe flight.

This is a hard situation for you. I would agree with the suggestions that you consult your doctor in detail about exactly how much risk there is in your son flying, making sure that he fully understands how hard it is for you to cancel this trip so that if he tells you not to go then it is not "just a precaution". If it really is out of the question to go, to ask him for a letter to get your flights changed or refunded.
Do you have any travel insurance you could claim on? We get it through my husband's job which I discovered when I recently had to cancel a trip as my mom was seriously ill - I got all my money back that way.
The other thing I would add is that my daughter's eardrum ruptured because of an ear infection when she was about 10 months old (nothing to do with flying). We didn't realise what was wrong with her until after the eardrum had already gone. She was obviously in a lot of pain just before it happened, but afterwards she was much better, and the doc said it would have been because the pressure was relieved. Anyway, it healed up fine and she has never had any hearing diffuculties, so in some ways it is not as dreadful a thing as it sounds at first - in my daughter's case it was the infection which caused all the trouble not the ruptured eardrum itself.

Dear B.,

I feel for you as I have been in your situation. We fly back to Europe twice a year and on my last flight back I had an undetected ear infection, so I have gone thru the pain myself.

However, I think there are two things you should weigh towards each other: 1. your son does not have an acute ear infection but has been treated for over a week already
2. children's tubes clear slower than adults just because they are smaller.

I would wait to see what the Friday exam brings and discuss it with the doctor again. Also, I would as of now but your son on decongestant as this will help with draining, if he is not on it already. Lots of fluids also help. If you decide to fly, bring those ear protection plugs that you read about. About an hour before the flight give decongestant and motrin as a precaution. Rupturing the eardrum is the worst that can happen, but he could still feel some pain from the liquids left in the ear and the motrin would help with that. I don't think your son is in immediate danger of rupturing his ear drums as he has been on treatment for a while already.
Give the decongestant again right when you board the plane and again right before you land. During starting and landing give your son lots of drink and once he had enough of that, gummibears to chew on. The swallowing motion down his throat helps with the pressure.

I hope you can still fly.

Whoa, this is a hard one. I hesitate as I respond as I dont want to scare you. I have no experience flying with a toddler in pain but I have flown with an ear infection. It was in-credibly painful. I didnt understand the pain and thought I was having a brain aneurysm! The flight staff apparently had witnessed this before( many times), they urged me to drink plenty fluids and the pain did not last the entire flight. Now if I feel congested before flying I drink ginger tea which seems to "open" my head up, do the ear popping exercise and chew gum.

Just because they are nonrefundable shouldn't mean that you can't cancel the flight and have the airline hold the funds on credit. Then you can book a flight for 6 months from now or something.

There is no way I would take the risk with my child. My oldest has trouble with his ears when flying sometimes and around the time he was getting over an ear infection, I didn't realize it could still cause a problem because I figured the meds had taken care of it. The doctor told me to use warm compresses behind his ears if it bothered him. It hurt him so bad he ended up crying hysterically and throwing up!!

Call the airline. See if they will hold the funds. Usually the credit is good for 1 year. Don't take the chance. That is a LONG flight to be on if something DOES happen. How would you feel if your son's eardrum ruptures 1/4 of the way into the flight?

So in answer to your question, yes, I think you are making a terrible mistake.

I agree with Lola on this one.

The doctor can write you a letter and I'm sure you can reschedule without great cost.

This is not something to play with - I know you miss your family, but it's not worth a lifetime of guilt if something happens.

I flew once with a head cold and let me tell you the EXCRUCIATING pain I felt in my ears upon landing was enough to actually make me cry - and that was as an adult. I thought FOR SURE my ear drums were going to burst. At the time my family was on the east coast and I was living on the West coast, so I had actually flown a couple times with sickness and each time it was TERRIBLE - that was on a 6 hour flight. Regardless, I would NEVER want my child to have endure that pain b/c I put him in such a position. I totally understand how you feel though about changing plans, I stress over changing little plans, but big plans like that - however, I'd have to say that you really need to think of your child. Being sick like that on an airplane and for such a long flight is terrible as an adult, but for a 3 year old, then the possibility of pain and potentially rupturing the ear drum. It doesn't seem necessary to me. I personally wouldn't do it. You can rearrange the plans - call the airline and tell them you want to change the flight, its not like you are getting a refund you are just making a change. I think they allow that. I wouldn't willingly rupture the eardrum, I wouldn't use decongestants - article: FDA warns of giving children cough, cold meds No decongestants for toddlers, antihistamines in kids under 6, officials say http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21034121/
I think in your heart you know what you should do, so look within and listen - either way.

When I was little they ruptured my eardrum twice and I am just fine. My daughter has ruptured her eardrums 3 times (they did it on their own due to ear infection) and her hearing is fine. Once the eardrum ruptured she was no longer in pain and felt tremendous relief. You are not a bad mother and I would ask them to rupture the eardrum which will reduce the chance of him being in pain.

Hi B.,
I am in a very similar situation. My son is 2 and we have plans to fly to Germany next week tuesday. He has been fighting an earinfection since the middle of last week. Last friday we saw his pediatritian and my son had a ruptured eardrum (from the infection) on one ear, and the other ear was just starting to get infected. the doctor said that my son should be fine to fly next week. she also said that even if there is still fluid in the ear, usually sucking on pacifier, etc. helps a lot while on the plane. my son was fine over the weekend, then on monday we went to his swimming class (I now know that I shouldn't have done that) and now he developed swimmer's ear in the other ear. Now he's taking antibiotics since friday and antibiotic drops since tuesday. He's still complaining about his ear and I am sooooo scared to fly to Germany with him next tuesday. I think I'm gonna take him back to the pediatritian tomorrow morning just to get his ears checked again. and then I have another appointment on monday to make sure his ears are fine for the flight. I just hope that everything works out..... I really don't wanna put him in any more pain. When were you going to fly? Let me know about your decision.
Best of luck,

You could always try calling the airline and explaining the situation. They may be able to help you out. It doesn't hurt to try. Good luck and I hope it works out for you!

I would go and not look back. I think you have done your
research and know about takeoff and landings. At 3 y.o.
I am sure he would love gum to chew! Just enjoy your

Call the airline. With a letter from the doctor you may be able to get either a refund or a reschedule.

Having said that, I had chronic ear infections as a child and remember flying once with an undetected ear infection. It was very very painful and I ended up at the ER when we arrived with a shattered ear drum. I didn't lose my hearing, but was miserable and very sick for the entire week. Not adding guilt here, but if the doctor really doesn't want you to fly, are you willing to risk shattering the ear drum and having a sick child for the trip?

If you MUST take this trip, the make sure you have pleny of Tylenol and ask the flight attendants for warm washclothes (like the ones in first class) to put over your son's ears. This sometimes relieves pressure.

Hi B.,
We took our 3 year old on a plane for the first time back in February....she had 7 plus ear infections since she was a baby, and we finally got tubes put in her ears 2 years ago this past March....Im going to be totally honest with you....I didnt prepare myself like I should have and didnt bring any Motrin at all...I guess because I thought the tubes would do there job and drain any fluid that possibly built up....well boy was I wrong....the whole flight there she was miserable...crying because her ears hurt her...and honestly even mine bothered me....she finally fell asleep and was fine when she woke up....the flight home she was perfectly fine...said once that her ears hurt her but that was it....I think some Motrin will definately do the trick for your son, and I think him being on antibiotics now is a good thing...I would just see what happens at the hearing test and then take it from there...is there any way you can ask someone for a second opinion?

im sorry, i know this is a horrible situation for you. i assume you have never flown with sinus congestion or you wouldnt even be considering it, i did it once and only once, it feels like your head is going to split open, its just awful... if i were you i would go to the ent that morning and let them look for fluid and get a tympanogram as well. if there is any sign of fluid i would absolutely not do it. and even if there is no fluid and you do go, motrin or tyleol in hand, please remember that you still have to fly home! meanwhile, i dont know how long you have before you go, but you may want to ask your doc about nasonex, mine prescribed the nasal spray to help clear my sons ear fluid. it had been starting to clear already (FINALLY after months), and it did clear, i dont know if the nasonex helped or if they would have cleared anyway, but maybe? i was wary, i dont like drugs for the kids, but she said it would have no side effects and was barely absorbed into his system. best of luck to you.

Wow - I am so sorry that you are in this position.

I would consider seeing a chiropracter/kinesieologist (sp). You might be able to get those ears draining more quickly.

Once I put my children on a healthy nutritional program the ear infection cycle my daughter was in ended.

There is some different children's health information available at www.nosickvisits.com

I am keeping you in my prayers that you come to the right solution.


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