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Jet lag can be hard to deal with but handling jet lag in kids may be harder. Most parents can have a tough time coping with jet-lagged kids after the flight is over. The situation may further compound, as parents are likely to be tired themselves. But this problem shouldn’t deter active parents from giving up on their travel passions as it can be easily managed by bearing a few things in mind. A little careful planning and foresight can help you to make your travel adventures enjoyable for both yourself and your kids.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag or Time Zone Change Syndrome is the feeling of extreme tiredness and at times confusion or irritability experienced by a person following a long flight through more than a few time zones. It possibly occurs due to interruption of circadian tempos in the body owing to time changes. The body’s circadian rhythms or internal clock control sleep-wake patterns and other physical functions of the body, which can get affected when a person travels several time zones.
Moreover, many people feel the jet lag to be worse when flying some time zones east than flying a similar figure of time zones to the west. For example, if someone was to travel from Asia to Europe, chances are they may find the outward journey easier than the incoming one. Similarly, if you are going to the US from the UK, the outgoing trip may seem more relaxed than when you travel back to the UK.
While calculating the difference between time zones, one may consider the change in time rather than the change of day. The body’s internal clock tends to get influenced by time changes instead of date changes. The severity of the jet lag symptoms usually depends on the age and the number of time zones one covers. The greater number of time zones you cross, the more serious the symptoms will probably be. Older people normally feel more jet-lagged as their body clock generally takes extra time to get into sync. Children commonly experience milder symptoms and recover sooner.
Signs of Jet Lag in a Child
Some of the jet lag in babies symptoms can be:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Daytime sleepiness
How Long Can Jet Lag Last in Children?
Children tend to recover faster from jet lag. However, the recovery can differ from one child to the other, as all kids are different. Besides, the recovery is also subject to the number of times zones a child has crossed while travelling. Usually, a child may get adjusted to a new time zone, typically at the measure of about one or two time zones each day. For example, if a kid has travelled through six time zones, his body may take naturally three to four days to adjust to the time variation.
In any case, the effects of a jet lag are mostly temporary and don’t last long. Complications arising due to jet lag are very rare. Nevertheless, in case you feel that the jet lag symptoms of your kid are not reducing or disappearing even after a week, consult a doctor.
How to Overcome Jet Lag With Infants and Kids
Jet lag can be tough on kids because they may not be able to fathom the reasons for their sudden tiredness or wakefulness, as their body fights to cope with a new time schedule in a changed zone. Assign a couple of days’ time to deal with your kid’s jet lag upon arrival at your destination.
1. Handling Jet Lag With Babies
Some handy tips to handle jet lag with babies are as follows:
- Try and prepare yourself mentally so that you are better equipped to deal with difficult situations, like your baby waking at odd hours or frequently.
- Enlist the help of your partner to tackle this challenge. You can take turns handling the baby while the other gets some much-needed rest and sleep.
- Letting your baby naturally adjust to the changed time zone may prove more helpful rather than trying to control or set a routine for him and expect him to follow it.
- A jet-lagged baby staying awake all night can be a possibility. His internal body clock may be equating the time with his waking hours back home. Make sure to keep the lights dim and offer him a feed if you feel so. Hopefully, your baby may fall asleep in due time.
- It may be beneficial to continue to follow your baby’s night-time schedule. If your baby’s night-time routine includes a warm bath, a bottle and sleeping in his diapers, do follow it in the new time zone as it may be his cue that it’s night and time to sleep.
- Decide on a suitable flight keeping in mind the likely time-adjustment challenges you will be facing upon landing in a new time zone. Most people prefer taking a late afternoon flight which allows them to rest during the flight. Also, they find it easier to settle their kid when its nighttime.
- Take your baby out to expose him to morning sunshine, which may assist in resetting his day/night clock timings.
2. Jet Lag Cure for Toddlers and Older Children
Here are some toddler jet lag solutions to keep in mind:
- Keep the first few days of your trip easy-paced and slow-going to give enough time to your kid to adjust to the new changed time zone.
- Flights with layovers may be a better bet as it can give your toddler an opportunity to take a break from flying and rest at the airport.
- Consider taking a flight which lands close to your toddler’s bedtime. This way, your toddler, who may be tired because of not getting proper sleep on the plane, is likely to prefer retiring to bed.
- You can try preparing your child in advance for the changed timings by adjusting his sleep time while still at home, closer to his new sleep time in the country you shall be visiting. Try explaining to older kids about time zones and how they can induce jet lag. Knowing what to expect may ease their confusion and enable them to deal with jet lag symptoms in a better manner.
- It may be a good idea to avoid flight meals for your kids. Instead, have them board the flight with full bellies so that your toddler can sleep during the flight while others are eating.
- In case sleep eludes your toddler on a flight, be sure to carry small toys, books, or other gadgets to keep him engaged.
- Exhaustion can lead to your toddler vomiting. Therefore, create and provide as many sleep opportunities as you can to your toddler to combat his possible tiredness and irritability. Restrict his sugar intake and encourage him to indulge in active playtime so that he is physically tired when it’s bedtime.
- Be patient with your child. Forget and abandon all your rules for a while. Try and remember that kids are very flexible and don’t take much time to adapt to newer things. Initiate your kid to time zones by planning smaller trips across the country. Gradually you can upgrade to international ones.
Jet lag is usually temporary and likely to pass in a few days. Be supportive and gentle towards your kid. Some thoughtful planning and advance preparation can help diminish the impact of jet lag and make flying trips with kids memorable.
Also Read: Essential Tips for Travelling With Kids