EMS Ambulance 4 Jan 2022


Medical flights for children – 5 things to think about before you book

Seeing a child suffer injury or illness is one of the most upsetting things a parent can experience.

But if the worst happens and you find yourself facing a flight home or abroad to seek urgent medical treatment for your child, the one thing you need to know is that they’ll be in safe hands.

Child repatriations aren’t the same as medical flights for adults, however, so it’s important to think carefully about the way the repatriation will be handled. Here are five key things to consider before you sign up with a medical repatriation company.

Know the differences

Child medical transports differ from adult ones in a number of important ways. Everything from the medication to the medical crew (see below) needs to be carefully tailored to a child’s physical and psychological needs. To give a few examples:

Medicines – the doctors need to be experienced in administering child-appropriate drugs and doses

Apparatus – the equipment (eg needles and masks) often needs to be specially adapted for children

Techniques – intubation (fitting a tube) for food, anaesthetics or oxygen is done differently

Environment – keeping the child safely warm in the cabin is critical – especially babies, who can’t regulate their body temperature in the same way as adults

Fly with a specialist

The safest way to repatriate a sick or injured child is to travel with a paediatric specialist. They understand the medical differences involved in treating children. Babies often need ear protection in the noisy cabin environment, for instance; their blood sugar levels sometimes also need to be carefully monitored. EMS uses specialists for all child transports. Our chief flight nurse is a paediatrics expert with hundreds of hours of international repatriation experience. We can also recommend specific hospitals abroad if you’re searching for specialist medical care for your child.

Travel with your child

We always recommend that parents fly with their child where possible, even on emergency flights. Firstly, it will help to keep them calm during the journey. But it will also be a help to the flight team as they look after the young patient and explain what’s happening (if they’re old enough to understand). Parents know better than anyone what their children need and how best to communicate with them. EMS provides flight space for one extra passenger on virtually every transport – and up to eight depending on the aircraft.

Pick a team you can trust

Caring for a child on a medical transport is a 24/7 role. They need to be able to handle every aspect of the journey – not just the child’s treatment, but things like feeding, changing diapers / nappies, and comforting them if they become distressed. They also need to be able to field questions and concerns from parents. That’s one reason why our specialists try to visit families and spend time with them before we carry out the transport.

Bring a comforter

It may not sound like a high priority given all the other things you have to deal with, but bringing a comforter – a blanket, a cuddly animal, a favourite toy – can be really helpful on a medical repatriation. The new faces and unfamiliar surroundings can be unsettling for any child. The touch, smell and physical presence of a familiar object can help to calm and reassure them. Remember that you can take up to 20kg of hand luggage for each person travelling on an EMS flight – and often more, depending on the aircraft.

Contact us

Do you need any help or advice about flying a child abroad for medical treatment? Please don’t hesitate to give our team a call any time, day or night. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and worries. If you’re looking into pricing and need to know more, please hop over to our easy-to-use cost calculator. Whatever you need, we’re here to help.

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