Child travel and sedation: To medicate or not to medicate…

child travel and medicine, sedation

You’ve thought about this, I know I have. Before B’s first long haul flight I even consulted our pediatrician about it:

Should I give my child medication to help him/her sleep on the plane? 

I  mean, let’s be perfectly honest, if I had a magic sleeping potion for myself – and no kids, mind you – on a long haul flight, you’d better believe I’d take it. But should you make the same decision for your child? Ultimately, it’s a personal choice, but here are some things to consider before loading up that syringe 30,000 feet in the air.

What does your pediatrician or family doctor say?

From asking friends, our own pediatrician and perusing parenting forums it’s safe to say this is a split decision. Just as many pediatricians seem to recommend it as don’t. (In case you were wondering, ours did not.) If you are determined to get a pediatrician’s approval you could probably shop around until you found one that does. However, it’s probably best to stick with a pediatrician you trust, and one that knows your child’s medical history well.

What medication would you choose?

  • There are many medications that tout “drowsiness,” but the most popular one people use for traveling kids is the antihistamine, Benadryl (Diphenhydramine.) But be warned – not all who take Benadryl become drowsy. In some kids it can have opposite effect, leading to hyperactivity. It’s a good idea to test any medicine before a flight to make sure there are no adverse or dangerous reactions.

Test any medicine out before a flight to make

sure there are no adverse or dangerous reactions, 

and consult your child’s pediatrician beforehand. 

  • Another common medication for traveling children is Tylenol (Acetaminophen) – our pediatrician did recommend this for possible ear pain and said it could have the added benefit of making a child sleepy.
  • Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate) is a motion sickness medicine that helps reduce nausea, vomiting and dizziness – a must have in your travel bag if you child suffers from this. The side effect listed is “marked drowsiness.” Again, some kids may have the opposite reaction, something to know before you fly.
  • Then there are the herbs. OZzzz’s is a children’s sleep aid made from a blend of Melatonin and Chamomile. We learned about these chewable tablets from a Swedish expat who frequently takes her daughter back to Sweden from the US. These don’t knock B out the way you would hope – but we like that they help him relax when it’s time to sleep. These little pills + some thoughtful travel planning (around naps and nighttime) ensure that B will get some quality shut-eye on the plane.

Why do you want to sedate your child?

Do they have a history of stress or discomfort on a plane? Are you afraid of a tantrum? Do they have a hard time relaxing enough to fall sleep on their own? Do they get motion sickness? Determining the problem leads to the solution, but remember that normal toddler/child behavior doesn’t necessarily warrant sedation and maybe other distractions can be used.
How do you feel?
Even with a doctor’s approval if you don’t feel comfortable giving your child medication mid-air, then don’t. Your gut is one of your most valuable tools as a parent. Listen to it.

3 Comments on Child travel and sedation: To medicate or not to medicate…

  1. HotMamaTravel
    Thursday, September 4 at (4 years ago)

    Glad you posted this. I remember before my first flight with my toddlers, I had so many moms nonchalantly suggest Benadryl. I decided to try without it plan my flights around nap time and luckily it worked. I was too stressed to give my kids meds, but I understand moms who have temperamental children.
    HotMamaTravel recently posted…Mission Bay RV ResortMy Profile

    • Jetlag&Juiceboxes
      Friday, September 5 at (4 years ago)

      So did I! And while I don’t feel the need to use it with B, I know every child and circumstance is different.


1Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Child travel and sedation: To medicate or not to medicate…

  1. […] Child Travel and Sedation: To Medicate or Not to Medicate: Jetlag & Juice Boxes explores one of the biggest debates of child travel – whether to sedate your child for travel.  I’m firmly in the no sedation camp.  As long as parents are prepared with food and entertainment and are prepared to work hard on a flight to supervise and control their little ones, there is no need for Benadryl.  I think my pediatrician would agree. […]

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