By Tania du Toit
The list of medical conditions that do not agree with flying, is kilometres long and can never be complete. Considering the significant cost of air tickets, you should perhaps make quite certain you don’t pay for a trip during which you may be turned away at the aeroplane’s door. It is another matter should you fall ill during a flight, but don’t knowingly expose yourself to loss and even humiliation, or harm your fellow-passengers’ health, should you be aware of your existing medical condition, which might rule out flying as choice of travel. Should you plan trying to hide your condition and slip in slyly, you still run the risk of being forbidden to board the flight. Crew are specially trained to notice obviously ill passengers and may prevent them from flying.
Some of the most common conditions considered that do not permit flying include contagious illnesses like chicken pox, Ebola, swine flue etc. Fly when your quarantine period has expired; consult your doctor.
Normally a pregnant woman should not fly as from week 36, and if more than one baby is expected, not after week 32. Keeping a gynaecologist’s letter handy would be wise; not everyone is the same size during the various stages of pregnancy. If you have undergone any operation recently, you have to tread lightly. Surgery to the abdomen, brain, eyes and orthopaedic procedures (bone/joints) usually is on doctors’ flying forbidden list. Should you have recently incurred injuries to your abdomen, eyes or head, a doctor’s opinion or examination is also advisable before you fly.
There are airlines who place a total ban on passengers with serious (discernible) sinus, ear or nose infections, or if you have a serious cough. Ask your doctor first or use your common sense. An airline may prevent you from flying if you are noticeably feverish (about 38°C), or may have a severe headache, have a greyish, dull complexion and/or a skin rash.
If you recently had a heart attack, a stroke or chest pains, talking to your cardiologist is first on your list before you consider flying. Even infections of the airways, being short of breath (without exercise), or having a collapsed lung, are of course risky conditions for flying. You should also reconsider or postpone flying if you have swelling of the brain, notice bruises or bleeding without having been injured, suffer acute diarrhoea, vomit, feel confused or bewildered or suffer from any psychotic condition (such as schizophrenia) for which you are not taking any medication.
If you previously or recently had problems with deep-vein thrombosis, you should throughout your life know how to manage the situation relating to any long trips where you cannot move, stretch and promote circulation adequately. Ask your doctor about intelligent travel and life choices pertaining to this condition and never treat it lightly. Also take responsibility, as far as possible, for the health of your travelling children.
One wonders how many air passengers comply with these prescriptions on a daily basis; however, do pay attention in this regard. In this case prevention definitely is better than cure.
Cranfield Aviation Training. “Safety and Emergency Procedures Training”: http://www.cranfield.co.za/AviationCourses/FlightCrew/SEPT-SafetyandEmergencyProceduresTraining/tabid/65/language/en-ZA/Default.aspx
Doc’s Opinion. “In-flight Medical Emergencies – The Role of the Flight Crew and the Medical Professional”: https://www.docsopinion.com/2017/10/23/in-flight-medical-emergencies/
Femina. “Medical Conditions that stop you from Flying”: https://www.femina.in/wellness/health/medical-conditions-that-stop-you-from-flying-81557.html
IOL News. Travel News. “The Cabin Crew that do more than just serve Drinks”: https://www.iol.co.za/travel/travel-news/the-cabin-crew-that-do-more-than-just-serve-drinks-2007560
The Academy of Aviation, South Africa. “What is Cabin Crew Training”: https://www.theacademyofaviation.co.za/cp/23254/what-is-cabin-crew-training