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Many patients unaware of the effect of flying on underlying medical conditions

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Health care professionals may increasingly be called on to perform Samaritan Acts because of the popularity of flying, suggest researchers.

Additionally, practice staff may increasingly need to advise patients with long-term conditions about the risks of flying.

Many passengers are oblivious to the health implications linked with air travel, and need to be advised of the potential risks, according to two experts writing in the Lancet.

Environmental and physiological changes that occur during routine commercial flights can worsen existing medical conditions or trigger in-flight medical events, they say. Additionally, fluctuations in cabin pressure can pose a risk, affecting blood oxygen saturation, thereby impacting on passengers with pre-existing cardiac conditions.

Although there is no international database recording in-flight medical events, serious cases reported included cardiac, neurological and respiratory complaints. Passengers over 70 years were reported as having the highest rate of in-flight medical incidences.

‘Physicians are now expected to identify individuals unfit for air travel and give them advice,’ the specialists write in The Lancet.

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