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Should You or Should You Not Fly With COPD?

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Should You or Should You Not Fly With COPD?

According to the World Health Organisation, the prevalence and burden of COPD are projected to increase over the coming decades, due to an ageing population. It is also estimated by the same organisation, that currently, 63 million people have moderate-to-severe COPD. 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a preventable disease characterized by airflow limitation; it manifests generally as a challenging respiratory problem. 

One of the most worrisome consequences of this disease is that it makes patients homebound. Most patients with COPD fear an active lifestyle.

For a healthy person, the risk of flying is relatively low. However, for a patient with COPD, there are some risks and effects of flying. The most specific risk is the environment inside the aircraft, mostly the alterations in gas exchange, and hemodynamics at high altitude. 

The main difference between the aircraft cabin and the ground environment is the atmospheric pressure, and in most passenger aircraft, the cabin pressure at cruising level corresponds to an ambient altitude of 1500-2450 m (5000-8000 ft). The pressure of the cabin at this point causes hypobaric hypoxaemia. During air travel, passengers with moderate-severe COPD have a higher risk of experiencing hypoxaemia. They already have a reduced arterial oxygen tension, plus a further decline of arterial oxygen tension and this may be below critical limits. It is critical to the extent that even minor exercise in these patients causes a further decrease in arterial oxygen tension. 

Another risk is the catalyst for an increase in pulmonary artery pressure, which is hypoxic vasoconstriction during air travel. It is more pronounced in patients with COPD with pre-existing pulmonary hypertension. The effect of acute hypoxaemia is it’d increase your heart rate, myocardial contraction velocity, cardiac output, and blood pressure. 

Also, another effect of flying with COPD is, during ascent, there is an increase in gases. This is a problem because rapid ascent may cause problems, especially in COPD patients. 

I hope you can forgive me for emphasizing the possible effects or risks for you to fly with COPD. It is in a bid for you to know how important it is for you to do a pre-flight assessment to know if you can fly for example long haul with COPD. 

There are a couple of tests you could choose from: 

  • Oxygen Saturation
  • Arterial blood gas analysis
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Walk test
  • Hypoxic challenge test amongst others

If you realize you are a COPD patient in Britain and you may face difficulties travelling, it is however not a verdict for you to accept. There have been and there are so many people like you in conditions even worse who enjoy comfortable and successful flights all over the world. You can be like them, and enjoy an active lifestyle. You deserve it. 

Before travelling, it is vital that you have insurance coverage that includes medical repatriation services for patients with COPD going abroad. However, if you are not insured and require a repatriation flight or simply cannot take a regular flight, we can offer you an ambulance flight regardless of your insurance cover. 

Booking medical flights to and from the UK with Medical Repatriation UK will mean you’ll have almost immediate flight availability, anytime and almost anywhere in the world, you can have medical repatriation within the shortest time possible with us. 

You’ll also be working with a 24/7 available service. At any time, there is an emergency, whenever you need us, we will be at your disposal. 

Our goal is for you to enjoy an active lifestyle.  

We are your experienced partner for the medical repatriation of COPD patients. Our team is available to assist you with a free consultation or a free calculation of the costs.

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