Understanding how in-flight medical emergencies work can help people be better prepared and have a better understanding of what an in-flight emergency is, who responds, and what help is available mid-flight.
In-flight medical emergencies on commercial flights occur on about 50 flights A DAY, or over 17,000 times a year in the United States alone. Among the most common in-flight medical emergencies are cardiac problems, loss of consciousness, seizures, respiratory problems such as asthma, and musculoskeletal problems, such as strains, sprains, and fractures. Each year, several babies are born aboard airplanes as well. In-flight medical emergencies occur spontaneously, but are also related to pressure changes (which can decrease the amount of oxygen available to breathe), lack of movement, and physiological responses to high altitudes.
OneTapCare's Dr. Eliana Aaron has responded to many in-flight medical emergencies including seizures, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal problems, drug/ alcohol overdosing, diabetic emergencies, and other ailments. Responders to in-flight medical emergencies can be physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, or paramedics. On some flights - only the flight attendants are available to assist. Conditions to treat people on an airplane are difficult at best – lack of human and medical resources, lack of space, and noise contribute to difficulties even performing basic medical evaluations.
There are some things you can do to reduce your risk of having an in-flight emergency, and to reduce your risk of complications or delayed care if you experience a medical emergency in-flight.
In order to keep you safer on flights, here is OneTapCare's list of precautions to take when traveling:
Keep a list of medications you are taking clearly available.
In addition, walking and stretching on board is recommended to prevent blood clots. This is especially true for longer flights. The Center for Disease Control has determined that people at risk for blood clots include:
If you have any of these risk factors, discuss your flight plans with your physician. In some cases, anti-clotting medication (an injection) may be prescribed to prevent a blood clot.
The vast majority of people reach their destinations without a medical emergency, but OneTapCare encourages everyone to take measures to prevent in-flight medical emergencies.