Declare your health condition, says doctor
The dramatic changes in the atmosphere affect the way blood circulates to the brain when we fly, says Dr. Osborne Embiruka Nyandiva.
Dr. Nyandiva is National University of Samoa senior lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine. He explained how without that regular supply of oxygen, illness that may be manageable on the ground, look very different up in the sky.
With the unfortunate circumstances of two passengers passing on while flying, Dr. Nyandiva said passengers should be sure to declare any medical conditions they have, either to the airline or their travelling companions.
“One of the scenarios why we have death in some circumstances is if someone has an underlying condition which is not really declared while taking a flight, or if people you are travelling with do not notice it, or it is not shared,” he said.
He said as a general rule, asthmatic people or anyone experiencing cardiovascular problems like heart problems or angina should be especially careful when flying.
Breathing related problems like asthma but also anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar are also worth considering as extra risk while flying, and previous experiences with concussion.
“The change of environment has an adverse effect on how the body adapts to that particular new scenario,” Dr Nyandiva said.
But as well as declaring one’s own medical conditions or situations to the airline or cabin crew, passengers should try help each other too.
Passengers should remember to “love one another as themselves”, Dr Nyandiva said, and keep a watchful eye on the people they share a plane with.
“At least have an interaction with your neighbour, and maybe from that interaction you will be able to understand, should anything happen, you’ll know how to help.
“It’s good to introduce one another, where you are coming from and where are you going, what do you do and all of that,” he said.
Symptoms like short sharp breaths, or very pale skin can be sure giveaways there is a problem, and Dr Nyandiva encouraged people to immediately sound the distress call to the cabin crew.
“It will go a long way to inform the crew of the event happening to the passenger,” he said. Hopefully, the cabin crew will already be aware of the passenger, and their health conditions.
“Anything can happen and you’ll find by notification, should there be anything that may cause alarm they can always come to your aid as soon as possible.”
Once you are on the plane, you are “under the mercy of the cabin crew,” Dr Nyandiva said. So it would pay to, as you board, choose a flight attendant to confide in.
With high traffic of people in Samoa travelling for medical treatment, knowing how to travel while experiencing health complications could save lives.
Dr Nyandiva said the IATA medical curriculum is comprehensive, and cabin crew undergo regular refresher courses on basic medical interventions.
It is important to plan well before you journey by plane, the doctor said. Have your medical packages in place, and ensure you do a pre-journey check up with your regular health practitioner.
While he was reluctant to advise about specific ages, Dr Nyandiva did caution that children and elderly should take extra precautions, or have those precautions taken on their behalf as they are particularly vulnerable.
“However you travel, be in a manner to enable you to get to where you are going,” he said.