Aviation Safety Letter 1/2003

Medication and Flying

All pilots have noticed the effects of common illnesses on their ability to accomplish the seemingly normal responsibilities of cockpit management. And haven't we all experienced the effects of over-the-counter medication taken to fight such illnesses as colds, fever, and upset stomach?

Medication and Flying

The changing weather in the fall, and the coming of winter often bring about physiological changes that affect our health, physical strength and emotional state. In short, we take a beating, and with it our ability to perform adequately under all situations that we may encounter in flight undeniably suffers.

Is my license valid? As pilots, we should take this question into consideration, since our qualifications are only valid if we meet the initial issuing requirements. This means, among other things, that our health must be as good as or better than when we had our last medical. Don't laugh, because any mishap, whether you're flying privately or professionally, that may have been caused or influenced by a medical status beyond that allowed by the requirements, may leave you more liable than you would have thought. Your job may be in jeopardy; in the event of a serious accident, you or your family may be left to pay the damages.

Since we are not all the same, our bodies react differently to different medication. Pharmaceutical companies know this and are required by law to post warnings to inform consumers of the various effects a drug can have on an individual.

Medical treatment such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, homeopathy or any other medical treatment may promote secondary effects on the body and impair your ability to respond to normal pilot responsibilities. You must always let your physician know of your status as a pilot in order that it may be taken into consideration when you are being given medical advice. In addition, to be safe, healthy and to retain your ability to fly, read the warnings on the label of any medication you are about to take.

This should be part of your preflight checklist. There are no excuses; please Mix all that with an 8 000 ft cabin - or any altitude - and constantly variable atmospheric pressure, affecting the body's absorption rate, and the synthesis of precious oxygen needed for your skills as a pilot, and it can make for a hazardous ride. Add in an emergency or two, and we're all in trouble. Remember; always fly in good health and good spirit.

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