Airlines are relying on parents of children who fall sick during flights to carry appropriate medicine rather than stocking child-friendly first aid and medical kits, a global study suggests.
Kits recommended by several international aviation regulators are “not particularly useful for treating the most common or the most serious in-flight medical events involving young children”, US researchers said in a new paper.
A team at Duke University Medical Centre carried out a review of all medical emergencies involving children during commercial flights during January 2015 and October 2016.
They looked at more than 11,000 instances on 77 international airlines in which children required emergency medical attention – around 16% of the total medical emergencies in the air.
The most common medical events involved nausea and vomiting (33.9%), fever or chills (22.2%), allergic reaction (5.5%), abdominal pain (4.7%) and stomach flu (4.5%).
These can be easily treated, but the study said that few airlines carried first-aid kits with paediatric versions of medicines.
About 16% of the total cases resulted in a child needing additional care upon landing, the researchers found.
It is important that caregivers of children who regularly receive certain medications carry these medications on board in carry-on luggage so they are readily available
Kits required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) do not include liquid forms of pain relief and allergy medications, with some young children experiencing difficulties in swallowing pills.
Also missing are spacers with face masks, which can help babies or young children who find it hard to use inhalers with a mouthpiece.
Alexandre Rotta, a paediatric critical care physician with 25 years’ experience and lead author of the paper, told PA: “There is a great number of children who have conditions that are simple to manage, such as nausea and vomiting, fever, or pain, or allergic reaction, and none of those are covered in the most common kits used worldwide.
“So while some airlines do carry some liquid formulations, they are the exception and not the rule, so if one were to have an anti-nausea medication, and anti-fever medication, an anti-allergic medication and an analgesic (painkiller), you would be able to cover the lion’s share of in-flight emergencies for children.
“Then if we add to that the ability to nebulise or deliver a bronchodilator for children who are having an asthma attack or a bronchial spasm, you cover a very important chunk of more consequential emergencies.”
The study was published on Thursday in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
With no legal requirements to carry these forms of medication, the authors say it is important that parents and carers carry appropriate medication in their hand luggage.
They wrote: “Therefore, it is important that caregivers of children who regularly receive certain medications or who might be expected to require acute symptomatic relief during flight carry these medications on board in carry-on luggage so they are readily available if a medical issue develops.”