Most airlines provide information on their website for passengers who have medical conditions which may affect their fitness to fly, including any specific requirements the airline has for medical clearance or provision of ‘fit to fly’ certificates.
When do I need a medical certificate?
If you have a medical condition that is stable, e.g. a stroke which has left residual weakness which impairs movement and no further complications, you do not need a medical certificate.
If you have an unstable condition, e.g. an underlying heart condition which had led to the stroke and is ongoing, a note from the treating physician outlining the medical condition will help with the decision on fitness to fly.
I have recently had surgery. Are there any restrictions when traveling?
The subject of air travel following a surgical operation is becoming an important issue with the increasing frequency of day surgery. The time between surgery and travel varies depending on the complexity and extent of the surgical procedure.
It is appropriate to allow one to two days following keyhole surgery and between four and five days for simple abdominal surgery. Major chest or abdominal surgery requires a period of approximately ten days. Simple cataract or corneal laser surgery do not cause major complications and therefore 24 hours is an adequate gap between surgery and flying. More complex eye surgery, for example that used for a detachment of the back of the eye (retina) require approximately one week before air travel.
It is always best, in more complex cases, to contact the airline concerned in order that their medical adviser can have as much information as possible before making a decision on fitness to fly.
I’m very nervous when it comes to flying. Is there any treatment for my fear? What causes it?
The fear of flying is the third most common phobia after the fear of snakes and spiders. Whilst 90% of adults are apprehensive when flying, fear only occurs in 10-25% of airline passengers.
There are various components which may cause the fear of flying – concern over heights, loss of control, claustrophobia, physiological effects, media “hype” and fear of the unknown.
To help overcome the fear, some airlines run courses which combine behavioural techniques and educational input on aspects of flying, including helpful material on aircraft noises and other area which may cause distress, such as turbulence. Many courses finish with a flight, which is carried out in carefully controlled situations.
Research has shown that the above interventions are effective and that the benefit may be sustained.
In severe cases, a GP may be able to prescribe a mild tranquiliser to assist in the process.
During the flight, it is advisable to avoid excess caffeine and alcohol.
I have a lung condition – Am I liable to have problems on a plane?
The majority of individuals with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sometimes called COPD, can travel perfectly safely on board an aircraft. It is essential however to carry all relevant medications, such as an inhaler, in cabin baggage. Contrary to popular belief, modern aircraft are not pressurised to sea level equivalent and fly with a cabin altitude of between 5,000 and 8,000 feet, causing a slight reduction in oxygen. This should not cause symptoms in the majority of individuals with mild / moderate disease. It is important that you discuss your intention to travel with your treating physician who knows all your medical details, in order that an accurate assessment can be made. In general terms, if a passenger can walk 50 yards/metres at normal pace, or climb one flight of stairs without significant breathlessness, oxygen should not be required.
If it is felt that supplementary oxygen is required, it is important that the airline is notified well in advance with a MEDIF Form in order that this service can be provided. Some carriers do make a charge for this. Recent work has shown that the majority of those with lung conditions respond well to supplementary oxygen in flight and should be able to travel worldwide.