Characterization of In-Flight Medical Events Involving Children on Commercial Airline Flights.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

STUDY OBJECTIVE: More than 4 billion passengers travel on commercial airline flights yearly. Although in-flight medical events involving adult passengers have been well characterized, data describing those affecting children are lacking. This study seeks to characterize pediatric in-flight medical events and their immediate outcomes, using a worldwide sample. METHODS: We reviewed the records of all in-flight medical events from January 1, 2015, to October 31, 2016, involving children younger than 19 years treated in consultation with a ground-based medical support center providing medical support to 77 commercial airlines worldwide. We characterized these in-flight medical events and determined factors associated with the need for additional care at destination or aircraft diversion. RESULTS: From a total of 75,587 in-flight medical events, we identified 11,719 (15.5%) involving children. Most in-flight medical events occurred on long-haul flights (76.1%), and 14% involved lap infants. In-flight care was generally provided by crew members only (88.6%), and physician (8.7%) or nurse (2.1%) passenger volunteers. Most in-flight medical events were resolved in flight (82.9%), whereas 16.5% required additional care on landing, and 0.5% led to aircraft diversion. The most common diagnostic categories were nausea or vomiting (33.9%), fever or chills (22.2%), and acute allergic reaction (5.5%). Events involving lap infants, syncope, seizures, burns, dyspnea, blunt trauma, lacerations, or congenital heart disease; those requiring the assistance of a volunteer medical provider; or those requiring the use of oxygen were positively correlated with the need for additional care after disembarkment. CONCLUSION: Most pediatric in-flight medical events are resolved in flight, and very few lead to aircraft diversion, yet 1 in 6 cases requires additional care.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rotta, AT; Alves, PM; Nerwich, N; Shein, SL

Published Date

  • January 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 75 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 66 - 74

PubMed ID

  • 31353055

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1097-6760

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2019.06.004


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States