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Aviation medicine 

Aviation medicine
Aviation medicine

Michael Bagshaw

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date: 25 February 2021

Travel by air is a safe means of transport, but puts people at various physiological risks and is a potential means of spreading infectious disease. Physiological risks associated with flying include hypoxia, as atmospheric pressure falls with altitude. The minimum cabin pressure in commercial passenger aircraft (565 mm Hg, 75.1 kPa) brings a healthy individual’s arterial P along the plateau of the oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve until just at the top of the steep part, but does not cause desaturation. By contrast, people with respiratory disease and a low arterial oxygen pressure may desaturate, which can be overcome by administering 30% oxygen, this being equivalent to breathing air at ground level. There is no evidence that the pressurized aircraft cabin itself encourages transmission of disease, and recirculation of cabin air is not a risk factor for contracting symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection.

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