Table 2

Summary of potential risks posed by air travel in various conditions

Asthma and COPDAcute bronchospasm, hypoxaemia or infective exacerbation*
BronchiectasisHypoxaemia, infective exacerbation*
Lung cancerHypoxaemia, overall deterioration or sepsis
Cardiac comorbidityMyocardial ischaemia; hypoxaemia, arrhythmia, peripheral oedema, venous thromboembolism, worsening of heart failure
Hyperventilation and dysfunctional breathingAcute exacerbation
Airborne infectionsHypoxia, transmission to other passengers
HIV infectionExacerbation of pre-existing opportunistic infection
Interstitial lung diseaseHypoxaemia, infective exacerbation*
Neuromuscular disease and kyphoscoliosisHypoxaemia
OSASWorsening hypoxaemia when asleep, exacerbation of jet lag with potential adverse effect on driving
ObesityDifficulty fitting into standard airline seats, worsening hypoxaemia in obesity hypoventilation syndrome, VTE
Pneumothorax38% expansion of residual air at 8000 ft (2438 m); possible recurrence within at least 1 year unless pleurodesis has beenperformed via thoracotomy
PAVMsHypoxaemia, stroke, VTE and PAVM haemorrhage
Sinus and middle ear diseaseSinus or middle ear barotraumas
Thoracic surgery38% expansion of residual air at 8000 ft (2438 m)
At risk of VTEIncreased risk of VTE on all flights especially those >8 h or following multiple shorter journeys over a short period
  • * Infective exacerbation is possible because of proximity to others with contagious diseases (ie, resulting from direct person-to-person transmission).

  • COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; OSAS, obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome; PAVM, pulmonary arteriovenous malformation; VTE, venous thromboembolism.