Toddlers sitting on their parent’s lap may be at greater risk of injury on a commercial airline flight than older children traveling in their own seats or using in-flight restraints.
In the first study of its kind, researchers analysed in-flight medical events (IFMEs) on flights worldwide between January 2009 and January 2014 and found 35 per cent involved children aged under two.
The statistics also showed that the most common mechanism of injury was scalding from hot drinks or soup spilled on a child, followed by falls from the seat involving children sat on an adult’s lap.
The analysis of 114,222 IFMEs revealed more than 10 per cent involved children up to the age of 18, and more than three per cent involved in-flight injuries.
Passengers who sustained in-flight injuries were younger than those involved in other medical events.
The study was conducted by researchers at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital (UH Rainbow) in the United States and international SOS company MedAire.
Study senior investigator Professor Alexandre Rotta, of UH Rainbow, said: “Paediatric medical events on commercial airlines are relatively infrequent given the amount of passenger traffic, however unrestrained children, especially lap infants, are more likely to sustain an in-flight injury particularly during meal service or turbulence.”
Prof Rotta said many paediatric in-flight injuries could potentially be prevented by using in-flight child restraints, avoiding aisle seats, and by having lap infants travel in their own designated seat.
He added: “Our data originated from a pool of approximately 80 major airlines worldwide over a four year period - it provides a very significant sample.”
More than 83 per cent of in-flight injuries occurred on international flights covering distances of more than 3,500 miles and lasting longer than six hours.
The most common types of in-flight injuries involved burns (39.3 per cent), contusions (29.5 per cent), lacerations (20.5 per cent) and closed head injuries (eight per cent).
Prof Rotta added: “It is my hope the information we discovered will promote the development of preventative strategies and travel policies to protect the health of all pediatric airplane passengers, especially these most vulnerable infants.”
The findings were due to be presented during the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference.