Keep my baby from getting sick from the airplane
June 13, 2014 10:57 AM   Subscribe

We traveled a couple of weeks ago, and my 7 month old got a respiratory virus and got very sick. Sent from pediatrician's office to ER to PICU sick. Based on timing, Occam's Razor says she caught it on the plane. We will be flying again in a few weeks. I would like practical tips for things we can do on the plane to minimize the risk of her getting sick again.

We have discussed the risk-benefit analysis with our doctors, and with their blessing, concluded that going on the trip is the right thing to do. For a variety of reasons, baby will be traveling as a lap infant. These things have been decided and I am now looking to mitigate the risks.

I am aware that she is going to be exposed to viruses wherever she goes, and I believe strongly in challenging little immune systems (we are not, shall we say, over-sanitizers). That said, I have crossed "have child admitted to pediatric intensive care unit" off my bucket list, and I intend to be a little paranoid on this particular trip.

So. We'll bring Lysol wipes or something similar to wipe down hard surfaces with, but what else should we do? Crib sheet on the airplane seat? Would that fit? Do you have a better idea? Ever traveled with an immunocompromised child? Any tips from that? Although I don't want to interfere with or annoy other passengers, for the purposes of this trip, I don't mind looking like a weirdo. I'd like to just put her in a large ziplock bag, but she'd probably run short of oxygen.

Thank you for your practical advice.
posted by telepanda to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's really the hard surfaces that are your burden, so wipes are probably the most important thing you can do. A crib sheet or big blanket might be helpful just for covering things she'll otherwise touch.

I'm sure they *make* baby surgical masks, but they probably do not make enough power on earth to make a baby wear one.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

keep her well-hydrated throughout the flight; she is more vulnerable to infection if her nasal passages become too dry. ask the pediatrician for the most knowledgeable list of tips.
posted by bruce at 11:00 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Baby-sized facemask? It seems the problem here is airborne pathogens + confined space . . . not sure how much wiping down a surface will help if another passenger is coughing or sneezing.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh poor thing.

Wipes are great, so is hand washing. I'm no fan of anti-bacterial stuff, but just in this instance it may be useful. So get some made for infants and just wipe her down periodically, with special attention to the little hanties.

7 months is a big 'what is this, let me taste' age, so be mindful of things that are going into the gob.

Lots of water will help too (as noted above.) She will probably hate it, but a spritz of saline up the nose may be useful to her.

Other than that...say a nice prayer before the flight and aim the air nozzle away from you both.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2014

Best answer: I am immuno-compromised. Some thoughts:

If possible, avoid sitting next to people with a cough or who are constantly clearing their throat. I don't really buy into "there are germs EVERYWHERE." My experience is that I can usually pin point how I got sick and it often comes from a specific person who was clearly ill at the time I ran across them.

Public bathrooms are a hazard zone. Be extra careful with cleaning your hands after you use the bathroom. Don't just wash your hands in the bathroom. Also use hand sanitizer or similar after you leave. The door handle can be pretty gross and gets touched by everyone.

Be mindful of what you touch and clean your hands before touching baby.

Do not let other people touch your baby.

Be aware that floors tend to be really nasty. I see people drop things on the floor all the time (pen, ID card, whatever) and pick it back up and they seem to think nothing of it and they seem to take zero precautions. If you drop anything on the floor, wipe it down. Assume the worst.
posted by Michele in California at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Virus infections (at least H1N1) drop off sharply once you are more than two seats away, so if someone isn't coughing in close proximity, it's a lot better. As noted, the air on planes is dry, but most people don't realize it's even dryer than a desert. Las Vegas is the dryest city in the U.S. at 21% relative humidity during the hottest part of the day, but planes are even dryer than that!
posted by wnissen at 1:24 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This would be my strategy:
1) Lots of hand washing/sanitizing for all - baby and parents
2) Wipes for cleaning surroundings like arm rests and tray tables
3) Saline nasal spray (some brands make sizes especially suited to babies)
4) Good hydration - airplanes are very drying
5) Vitamin D supplementation for immune boosting (baby-specific formulations are available at places like Whole Foods)
posted by quince at 1:36 PM on June 13, 2014

If she uses a pacifier, have a dozen of them in a ziplock so that if one falls out you've got another clean one nearby. Having a pacifier in her mouth is a good way to keep other things from going in there.

I'd also see if you can get a sedative for the baby so she sleeps through most of the flight. This will keep her from touching and tasting everything, and will permit you to have much more control over her immediate environment. Sit by the window, not the aisle, and cover her face with a light cotton blanker, or maybe a pillowcase, if she'll tolerate it while she's sleeping. (Many babies like this, mine hated it.)

Also, be sure that your and her vaccinations are up to date. With measles on the rebound, you want to protect her with whatever vaccinations she can have at this age. For you in particular, double check your pertussis and rubella and measles status; these need boosters and most family doctors forget to remind their adult patients to get them.
posted by Capri at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2014

They do make baby facemasks, your local children's hospital probably had them by the doorways. Good luck keeping it on though!

Seconding washing your hands like crazy, wiping down surfaces baby will touch, and watching for things that get dropped - wash with soap and water before giving back, don't just use a baby wipe.

If it helps at all, RSV is in decline now - you can check the incidence map on the CDC website. Good luck on your trip!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:50 PM on June 13, 2014

I once worked with someone who did a fair amount of travel, lots of long international flights. He sore by misting his face with lavender spray, such as Dr. Bronner's Lavender Hand Sanitizing Spray. I'm not suggesting you squirt baby in the face, but maybe her hands (and yours).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:02 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a window seat for the lap parent if you can so you are not exposed to folks walking hither and yon. It also means if it's a short enough flight you could always "tent" the baby in a breastfeeding cover or light muslin wrap - over your shoulder, maybe to the back of the seat in front of you and down between parents. Still enough space to be comfortable, but not a lot of airflow from other passengers. It may well make the flight more comfortable for baby too, especially if it's a familiar cover.
posted by Jilder at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2014

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