Billions of us travel by air each year however we are all individuals with varying needs, including a range of medical conditions and all airlines have different policies regarding this. For example some airlines will require a medical certificate to prove that you fit to fly.
The airline needs to ensure that air travel will not worsen or agitate a pre-existing condition and also that the patient’s ailment will not affect the comfort or safety of other passengers on the flight. Regardless of a doctor’s medical certificate the final decision remains with the airline and the captain of the flight and they may still refuse carriage.
A main considering factor involved in this decision making process is the affect of altitude, humidity and oxygen saturation levels during flight. Modern aircraft have a cabin altitude pressure equivalent of between 5,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level. (source: cyprusairways.com) This means that your blood will not be as saturated with oxygen and can affect breathing, cardiac activity, circulation and brain activity. Sometimes during flight, although not normally for long periods of time, a person’s oxygen saturation level can fall to 90%. A healthy individual can tolerate this temporary change with no problems however a patient with cardiac, anaemia or respiratory problems may find themselves in serious difficulties.
Aircraft cabins have low humidity levels that dry out the air; this can cause dryness of the skin or other mucous membranes within the body such as the throat and lungs and affect respiration.
Reduced cabin pressure can also cause gas volume expansion. Any gas that may have inadvertently been introduced to the body during surgery could then expand and cause pain or even perforation through the membrane.
A main deciding factor in whether or not a person may be considered ‘fit to fly’ is their oxygen saturation level. If a person’s saturation level is equal to, or more than 95%, they do not need oxygen for flying. If an asthma sufferer has a stable status then they should be able to fly as long as they keep their medication to hand. Anyone with an active exacerbation of respiratory disease should wait until their condition has improved before considering to fly. Consultation with a doctor or respiratory specialist will aid in ascertaining whether it is wise to fly or whether additional aids or medication would be wise to use during the flight. This may also help to persuade the airline that you are fit to fly.
As passengers sometimes cannot take their own oxygen equipment on board due to regulatory requirements although this is changing and more and more POC’s (portable oxygen concentrators) are allowed on board of the aircraft.
If a passenger has used oxygen provided by the airline company he or she will have to pre-arrange oxygen at the end of the flight. OxygenWorldwide does provide an Airport Service where they have somone waiting at the door of the aircraft to hand over a portable oxygen device so one can travel onwards to their hotel or other holiday destination.
Please check with OxygenWoldwide for availability on your destination