According to a study in the journal Anaesthesia, commercial airline travelers suffer "significant" oxygen level drops in their bodies during flights. More than half of all passengers examined had oxygen levels 6 percent below the norm at the airplane's maximum altitude. Had these same passengers been in a hospital, many doctors would prescribe extra oxygen at those oxygen levels.
Belfast, Northern Ireland anesthetists measured oxygen levels both on the ground and at maximum altitude in 74 passengers between the ages of 1 and 78, none of whom had pre-existing cardiorespiratory problems or need doctor's permission to fly. The results could help explain why some airline passengers get sick during and after flights, experts says.
Airline passengers suffer "significant" drops in oxygen levels in their bodies during flights, the first study of its kind has found.
Just over half of all the passengers studied had oxygen levels 6% lower than usual at an airliner's maximum altitude, a level at which many doctors would prescribe extra oxygen had they been in hospital.
Such drops in oxygen could help explain why some air travellers become sick during and after flights, according to the study in the latest issue of the journal Anaesthesia.
Anaesthetists from Belfast, Northern Ireland, measured the oxygen levels of 84 passengers, aged between one year and 78, on the ground and at maximum altitude.
None of the passengers had severe cardiorespiratory problems or needed permission from their doctor to fly.
On average, oxygen levels fell by 4% when the passengers, reached cruising altitude.
The results could help understand illnesses connected to flights, says Dr Susan Humphreys, specialist anaesthetic registrar at The Royal Hospitals in Belfast.
"We believe that these falling oxygen levels, together with factors such as dehydration, immobility and low humidity, could contribute to illness during and after flights," she says in the report.
"This has become a greater problem in recent years as modern aeroplanes are able to cruise at much higher altitudes."
Of the 84 passengers, 55 were on flights lasting more than two hours, while the others were on short-haul journeys.
Similar results were obtained from both groups.
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