Are You
Fit to Fly?


Attention all airline passengers: If you have heart, circulatory or breathing problems, a few precautions could cut your risk of an increasingly prevalent hazard of flying - low blood-oxygen levels that can trigger headaches, fainting spells, and even heart attacks.

The number of in-flight medical emergencies linked to low blood-oxygen levels has risen significantly over the past 30 years. Though airlines pump oxygen into their cabins, less makes it into your bloodstream, because air pressure is reduced at cruising altitude. But if you've got circulatory or breathing problems or are a heavy smoker, it could cause serious trouble.

  • Skip the airport bars and in-flight happy hour. Alcohol can amplify the symptoms of low blood-oxygen levels.
  • Snuff the smokes. Smoking further lowers oxygen levels in your blood.

See your doctor for pulmonary function and blood arterial saturation tests well before you board. These tell you whether you're fit to fly, if you need in-flight oxygen (is so, alert the airline ahead of time), or if you should take a train, ship, bus or car instead.

Source: Prevention magazine, 9/01

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