Wednesday 21 March 2018

Medical emergencies while flying are surprisingly rare

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Flying can be a scary experience for any traveller suffering health problems, but a new study shows that the chances of falling ill on board are surprisingly small.

The 'New England Journal of Medicine' analysed over seven million flights and concluded that medical emergencies were reported in only one out of every 604 flights, affecting only 16 out of every one million passengers.

Only 7pc of these emergencies were considered serious enough to merit diverting the plane and less than half a per cent proved fatal.

One of the more fortunate aspects of falling ill mid-flight is that planes are prepared for medical emergencies, and fellow passengers might just happen to be doctors or nurses.

The study found that doctors were present on board 48pc of the flights that reported emergencies, while nurses or emergency medical technicians were present in another 25pc of cases. The most commonly used medications administered included oxygen, used in half of the incidents, and aspirin, used in 5pc.

The main medical emergency observed was passengers fainting, which accounted for more than 37pc of cases.

About 12pc involved people having difficulty breathing, while nausea and vomiting accounted for around 10pc. Full-blown heart attacks made up just 0.3pc of all incidents.

Pregnancy-related problems were rare, which the study says supports existing recommendations that air travel is safe up to the 36th week of pregnancy.

Irish Independent

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