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Should you fly when you have high blood pressure?

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Hypertension is a fairly common medical condition nowadays with the World Health Organisation (WHO) putting this number at 1.13 billion people worldwide in 2019. With over 4 billion travellers in 2019 alone, this makes it 1 in 4 travellers suffers from hypertension.

Is flying safe for someone with high blood pressure? Are there any precautions one should take while flying with hypertension? Let’s find out below.



What is high blood pressure?


Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood against the wall’s of the arteries, the major blood vessels in the body. Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is above 140/90.


Blood pressure is written as two numbers known as systolic number and diastolic number. The first number also known as the systolic number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. The second number also known as diastolic number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.


Hypertension is diagnosed when if measured on two separate days, the systolic reading on both days is greater than 140 mmHg and/or the diastolic reading on both days is greater than 90 mmHg.

How does blood pressure affect one in flight?


Hypertension symptoms can worsen in very high altitudes like in flight. One of the condition that can occur is hypoxia, meaning a significant decrease in the oxygen carried in the blood.


In high altitudes, hypertension patients experiences blood being rushed through his body without enough oxygen to supply all of the body’s parts.


Hypertension patients can also suffer from blood clots in their legs for flights lasting longer than 2 hours. This is because of immobility in flight and the condition is known as deep veined thrombosis. (DVT)


What is Deep Veined Thrombosis?


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep leg veins. This condition will become life threatening when the blood clot formed breaks off and moves through the blood stream causing an embolism, a condition where embolus, a blockage-causing piece of material lodges inside a blood vessel. Flying puts one at greater risk for developing DVT as it limits our mobility for long periods of time.


Signs and symptoms of Deep Veined Thrombosis


DVT signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the affected leg

  • Leg pain

  • Red or discoloured skin on the leg

  • Feeling of warmth in the affected leg

DVT can also occur without any obvious symptoms


Is there a blood pressure limit for flying?


There isn’t any imposed limit but it needs to be controlled with medication before the flight for the passenger’s safety. As blood pressure is considered high if over 140/90 mmHg, and if one’s blood pressure is consistently above this value, it is important to reduce it before the flight.

Precautions

Flying is generally safe for passengers with hypertension, but there are still precautions to be taken in order to ensure that hypertension passengers don’t feel uncomfortable in flight. This includes the following precautions:

  • Check with one’s family doctor on suitability of travel, only fly when the doctor advises it is safe to do so

  • Pack medication in one’s hand luggage so that it is easily accessible during the flight and bring extra medication to cover for any delay of flight or loss of medication during the trip

  • Bring your own food as airlines tend to provide snacks with high salt content which can increase blood pressure levels. If your airline permits, request for low-sodium meals to be served to you in flight

  • Avoid alcohol or any medication with a sedative effect as they can make one less active in flight

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Carry written information of your medication and dosages, along with important contact details for the unlikely event of an emergency


Generally, passengers with high blood pressure can still fly as long as they take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are fit to fly.



Watch a video to learn more



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