How To Travel With A Sick Baby

Traveling with a baby can be tricky, but traveling with a sick baby can be even worse. When your little one isn’t feeling well, you can expect tears, tantrums, and high levels of stress for both baby and caretakers. I know from personal experience that when my child is sick, all I can focus on is doing whatever I can to help.

How to travel with a sick baby?

Preparing for Travel Traveling by Plane Traveling by Car
Consult Your Pediatrician First Arrive at the airport early Don’t travel too much in one day
Visit the Doctor Prior to Departure Wear your baby (Wrap or Sling) Get a car mirror
Bring Enough to Keep Baby Fed & Hydrated Provide quiet distractions (Books, etc.) Play baby-friendly music or white noise
Bring the Right Medications Read up on TSA policies for traveling with an Infant Take a lot of breaks in between
Bring a Well-Organized Diaper Bag Monitor temperature closely
Have someone sit in the back seat

While there might not be a magic cure to heal your baby before you need to travel, there are some steps you can take to make the experience better. Here my tips on how to travel with a sick baby.

Consult Your Pediatrician First

Your baby’s health is, of course, the number one concern when traveling with a sick. 

None of the suggestions contained in this article should be taken in lieu of medical advice. Only proceed with travel if your child is well enough to do so safely.

Visit the Doctor Before Departure

Sometimes illness creeps up at the last minute and travel plans must proceed as planned anyways. 

But if your baby starts showing symptoms prior to departure and you’re able to procure a doctor’s appointment before you have to go, do so. 

The problem may require a medication that you can’t acquire over the counter.

For example, one evening, my infant, who normally sleeps through the night without fuss, kept waking up screaming. 

Even after offering the pacifier and picking him up, I was unable to console him. A trip to the pediatrician found the culprit to be an ear infection.

Had I not taken him to the doctor, I could have medicated him and masked the pain at home with over the counter products, but the condition would have just progressed until he got the needed prescribed antibiotics.

While last-minute appointments are not always possible, when available, they could save you (and your baby) a lot of travel headaches.

Focus on Hydration

One of the dangers of a baby being sick is the possibility of dehydration. 

Vomiting, diarrhea, and refusal to eat or drink are all factors that can turn a common illness into a medical emergency.

Be conscientious of your child’s fluid intake and continue to offer age-appropriate fluids. Ask your doctor about the safety of offering water or an electrolyte-enhanced drink such as Pedialyte.

Bring the Right Medications

One of the fastest ways to get your baby to feeling back to normal is over-the-counter pain relievers. 

Of course, make sure to get pediatrician approval before giving your baby any type of medication. 

When speaking with your pediatrician in regards to such medications, make sure to get clarity about the following:

  • Dosage
  • How often to administer
  • How many times you can give the medication each day
  • Medications that can and can’t be given at the same time

Make sure you know your baby’s weight because many medications base dosage off of weight.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced when my baby has not been feeling well is the stuffy nose, which never fails to keep my baby awake when he should be sleeping. 

Ask your pediatrician about saline drops used in conjunction with a bulb syringe to help clear your baby’s nose.

Bring a Well-Organized Diaper Bag

If you have a baby, you no doubt have a diaper bag that goes everywhere with the two of you. 

If your baby is sick and traveling with you, the last thing you want to have to do is search through a mess to find what you need. 

Make sure to pack extras of some of the essentials that baby is likely to run through even faster than usual while sick, such as diapers and wipes. As I mentioned in this article, make sure -if flying- the plane has changing facilities.

Tips for Flying with a Sick Baby

Flying with a sick baby can cause additional anxiety due to the fact that you have to travel amongst the general public. Here are some tips to help you and your sick baby survive a trip through the airport and on the plane

  • Arrive at the airport early Making it through baggage claim and security and to your gate can take a long time, but it can take even longer with a baby in tow. Additionally, sick babies are unpredictable– you never know when you will have to make a stop to feed, change, or comfort your child.

    While liquid quantities allowed to be carried on to a plane are limited, exceptions are for adults traveling with infants who need to bring formula, breastmilk, or water to feed the child. However, additional screening is often needed on these items, and that means additional time spent in security.

    Arrive early to allow for such delays. Make sure to check the TSA’s information on traveling with children before you prepare for your trip.

  • Recognize that your baby has the same right to be on the plane as anyone else – Unfortunately, it is all too natural for parents to feel like they need to protect the other passengers on the plane from the loud crying of their child. But there is no need to be embarrassed– just because a baby is young, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same right to be on the plane as anyone else. A sick baby is going to cry, and that is okay.
  • Wear your baby Wearing your baby in a wrap or sling can help keep a sick baby calm. Babies love to feel the warm, comforting presence of their caretaker, and a baby wrap or sling provides them with just that. According to Small Footprint Family, sick babies that are worn heal faster. 
  • Provide distractions – A distracted baby has less energy to focus on feeling sick. Bring quiet toys and books for your child to use while on the plane. Sometimes, the best toys are not toys at all but just objects that your child hasn’t played with before. Prepare a bag full of things for baby to play with on the plane, and stretch the experience by pulling them out one at a time.

Of course, few things are more exciting to most kids than technology. You will likely not have free wifi access on the plane, so load your phone up with baby game apps and download videos and music to keep your baby entertained.

TIP: Consider using an old phone for your baby to play with on the plane. Take an old phone without service and connect it to wifi at your home. Download necessary apps (that will work without internet service) and media. Make sure it is fully charged prior to your trip. 

That way, your baby won’t drain the battery out of your phone on the trip.

Traveling Via Car with a Sick Baby

  • Don’t travel too much in one day – Traveling for long periods of time can get uncomfortable, especially when sick. If your trip is long, consider breaking your trip up into several days to allow your baby time to rest and heal.
  • Get a car mirror One of the downsides to traveling with a baby in the car is that you can’t see them while you are driving and they are riding rear-facing in the backseat. Consider buying a car mirror like this one (Amazon link) that will allow you the peace of mind of being able to check on your baby by looking in your rear-view mirror (just make sure to pay attention to the road!)!
  • Play baby-friendly music – If your baby is like mine, they love music– the more obnoxious, the better. Play some music made for babies/young kids while you drive to keep your baby happy until the (hopefully) fall asleep.
  • Use white noise – If you can’t stomach the idea of listening to hours of nursery rhymes and animal noises, use white noise instead of baby music. The womb is a very noisy place, and therefore silence can be very unsettling for especially young babies. White noise can be a relaxing alternative to playing children’s music. You can either play white noise through your car’s speakers via your phone or purchase a portable white noise machine like this one (Amazon link).
  • Monitor temperature closely – Body temperature can be unpredictable and can change fast for a sick baby. Make sure your baby isn’t too cold or too hot while traveling by checking their temperature frequently and adjusting layers of clothing as needed. Dress your baby in a simple short-sleeved onesie, and bring blankets and socks to add as necessary.

Bring along a thermometer to periodically check the baby’s fever if he/she has one.

Talk with your doctor prior to leaving to know what temperatures (both high and low) to look for that could signal an emergency situation that would warrant a trip to the nearest emergency room.

  • Have someone sit in the back seat – If you are traveling with a passenger other than baby, consider asking them to sit in the back seat to keep an eye on the baby. Another passenger in the backseat can be a source of comfort for your baby, and can also watch for signs of worsening illness. A helper in the backseat can also help by offering liquids and tending to the baby’s needs while you drive.

Traveling with a baby is rarely fun for anyone involved, but through following these tips, you can minimize the hardship on everyone involved. Make sure to wash/sanitize baby’s clothes and equipment when you arrive at your destination to keep baby clean and avoid making anyone else sick.

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