Flying and your health
Your wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us. Here’s how flying can affect certain health conditions.
For most of us, flying is a safe way to travel. However, the pressurised cabin can potentially affect passengers with existing medical conditions.
For passengers suffering from conditions like heart or lung disease, or blood disorders such as anaemia (including sickle cell anaemia), the lower oxygen levels could lead to oxygen deprivation (hypoxia), making additional oxygen supplies necessary.
Additionally, the lower air pressure means that air within the cabin is expanded by about 30%. This could cause problems for passengers who have recently undergone surgery, have abdominal health problems, or blocked ears or sinuses.
If you think you may need additional oxygen or have any concerns please contact our Special Assistance team. (opens in a new window) You’ll also find further information below.
Circumstances where you are unable to fly
Please take note of the following situations. You cannot fly if:
You have been SCUBA diving within 48 hours prior to your flight (however, see below for more information)
You’ve had a general anaesthetic or dental treatment within 48 hours prior to your flight
Conditions that may be affected by flying
If you are affected by any of the following conditions, you should check your doctor is happy for you to fly. You should also check with our Special Assistance team in case you require medical clearance to fly. Certain conditions may mean we require written confirmation from your doctor:
- Heart or blood vessel problems such as a heart attack, heart failure, angina or stroke.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Breathing difficulties such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, pneumothorax (a collapsed lung), pulmonary embolism (a blood clot on the lung), or asthma, especially if you may need additional oxygen or use of a nebuliser during your flight
- A recent head injury
- Stomach or bowel problems
- A current infectious disease
- Ear or sinus pain
- Pregnancy (see our page on flying during pregnancy (opens in a new window))
- Limb injuries, including fractures
- Psychiatric problems
- Any recent surgery
Flying and SCUBA diving
To reduce the risk of decompression sickness, you will need to leave ample time between your last SCUBA dive and your flight.
If you have only had a single dive, you may fly 24 hours after, if the dive did not include decompression stops.
If your dive involved a decompression stop or you’ve been on more than one dive, you should leave 48 hours before you fly.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition where blood clots develop, most often within the deep veins of the legs. Anyone sitting for more than four hours is at risk of developing DVT, but you may be at greater risk if you:
- Are aged 40 or over
- Have previously been diagnosed with blood clots
- Have a family history of blood clots
- Have inherited a blood clotting risk
- Have cancer and/or you are undergoing cancer treatment
- Are being treated for heart failure and/or circulation problems
- Have had recent surgery, especially on the hips, knees, or abdomen
- Have an illness which has led to a period of immobility
- Are pregnant or recently had a baby
- Take the contraceptive pill or other medicines containing oestrogen
- Are very tall, very short or obese
In order to protect passengers, agriculture and the environment, our cabin crew will spray insecticide in the passenger cabins at the start or end of some flights depending on their point of departure and/or origin.
You can find out more information from the US Department of Transport (opens in a new window).
If you’d like further advice after seeing your medical practitioner, you may find the following contacts useful:
- Our ever-helpful Special Assistance team can be reached on (+44) 0344 412 4455
- The UK Civil Aviation Authority website (opens in a new window) has advice for both medical practitioners and passengers – follow the links to the Aviation Health Unit