ei164
Topic Author
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Joined: Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:19 pm

Fainting on flights

Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:49 am

I recently flew from HKG-LHR on VS207 redeye, which is operated by a B789. I was sitting in the front row of the premium economy cabin in an aisle seat, facing the bulkhead. During the flight (after about 6hrs), a man collapsed in the aisle between the galley and the toilets, right beside me. I was the first to assist (all other passengers were asleep). I helped him to his feet - he was quite disorientated and dizzy. I quickly got assistance from the crew, who brought the man to the crew jump seats. A passenger doctor examined the man. He was laid on the cabin floor and administered an oxygen mask. After about 2 hours, still on the oxygen mask, the man was escorted back to his seat, and the flight continued to LHR without further events.
When I spoke to a cabin crew member regarding the incident, she said that he just fainted and this was quite normal. She said that typically one person per flight faints (maybe she meant longhaul flights). I still find this hard to believe as I have never known it to happen before. So, is this true - typically one person per flight faints?
 
tonystan
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 7:39 am

Re: Fainting on flights

Sun Jul 17, 2016 11:46 am

Happens all the time. Really is a non event to be honest.

Many people even those in prime of their health can struggle with altitude and just keel over. Nothing a bit of oxygen won't sort out.

It usually only becomes a problem when other people get involved and start making outrageous claims about the persons medical condition and won't leave the crew to deal with the situation!
My views are my own and do not reflect any other person or organisation.
 
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XAM2175
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Re: Fainting on flights

Mon Jul 18, 2016 8:42 am

Bear in mind too that with patient privacy laws you're never going to get the full picture about a medical incident that doesn't actually involve you.
 
Lofty
Posts: 660
Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 5:23 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Mon Jul 18, 2016 8:51 am

I would say 1 person per flight is very high. If you think of what could be going on in your body during a longhaul flight it is no big surprise that it does happen:
- Lack of sleep.
- Sleeping upright.
- Taking of drugs - sleeping pills etc
- Too much alcohol.
- Stress.
- Fear of flying.
That is before you add any additional outstanding medical conditions.

The only medical assistance at LHR is to call a medical emergency - this would involve a 999 call and an emergency ambulance / cycle. Clearly the gentleman did not need that level of response.
 
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longhauler
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Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Fainting on flights

Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:35 pm

I see maybe two or three a year at the most. I fly almost exclusively long haul flying.

Procedure is to fill out a questionnaire, hopefully with the help of a physician, then relay that information to StatMD or Medlink. StatMD/Medlink will decide the best course of action for the ill passenger. Sometimes, the best response is just oxygen and something to raise blood sugar levels.

Sometimes, the best action is to land as soon as practical. If that is the case, then StatMD/Medlink with Flight Dispatch will decide the best diversion point ... with the Captain's agreement, as he has the final say, the aircraft diverts.

It sounds like in your case, it was decided that the passenger's health was not harmed by continuing to your destination.
Just because I stopped arguing, doesn't mean I think you are right. It just means I gave up!
 
sierra3tango
Posts: 586
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:59 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:04 pm

Keeled over myself going to the galley about 20 years ago on a red eye BAH/LHR.
Apparently out for about 30 sec. Was put on a jump seat given a hot sweet tea & felt much better.
Took the tube to Central London on arrival
Only time in 40+ years of LH travel,
It happens, its not necessarily an emergency, just a bad day IIRC
 
FlyHossD
Posts: 1996
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:45 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:21 pm

Lofty wrote:
I would say 1 person per flight is very high. If you think of what could be going on in your body during a longhaul flight it is no big surprise that it does happen:
- Lack of sleep.
- Sleeping upright.
- Taking of drugs - sleeping pills etc
- Too much alcohol.
- Stress.
- Fear of flying.
That is before you add any additional outstanding medical conditions.


Good post - I'd add dehydration to that list.

I couldn't count how many fainting passengers I had on flights over the course of my career - late departures from LAS (to anywhere) seemed to have the highest likelihood. I do recall one early a.m. departure out of LAS that had two passengers pass out with a few minutes of each other.
My statements do not represent my former employer or my current employer and are my opinions only.
 
quiet1
Posts: 321
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:39 am

Re: Fainting on flights

Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:58 am

I forget the technical details but there is some semi-common syndrome that occurs at altitude for men of a certain age (middle age?) after urinating. Can anybody fill in the blanks in that statement?
 
rocketPower
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:48 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Tue Jul 19, 2016 12:16 pm

I fainted from SNA to DEN once.

I was a bit under the weather and took some drowsy cold medicine. I was sitting in the window seat using a big sweater as a blanket when I felt the telltale pre-faint head rush. I realized I was about to go to lala land but also was paranoid of causing a diversion, so I just pretended to sleep, proceeded to faint, had that usual weird fainting dream (flying bed in the sky type thing) and then woke up.

No one noticed and we proceeded as usual! Chalked it up to the meds, not enough sleep (early flight) and that typical SNA takeoff over Newport!

Fun times
rocketPower

Life is about enjoying being uncomfortable. If you're complacent, something is wrong!
 
zrs70
Posts: 3735
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2000 4:08 am

Re: Fainting on flights

Tue Jul 19, 2016 1:05 pm

I am in excellent health, and have a very low heart rate (usually about 40-45 resting). As it is so low, I tend to faint more easily. I have learned some pointers along the way.

1) generally, when someone faints, get his head as low as possible. Our instinct is often to help the person up. Best thing we can do is gently lower his head to the ground.

2) a cold wet rag or napkin behind the neck does wonders

3) fan the person
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DTWPurserBoy
Posts: 2374
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:33 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Tue Jul 19, 2016 1:50 pm

As a f/a and an RN I can tell you that fainting is very common. It is called orthostatic hypotension. Basically, it occurs when you have been sitting for a long period and your blood concentrates in the lower extremities. You start to feel dizzy, nauseous and so you try to head for the lav. You stand up, your brain goes "Uh, oh....insufficient blood supply to the upper extremities and boom, you conk out for a few seconds.. 99% of the fainting occurs right outside the lav because people's natural instinct is to head there when they do not feel well.. Once your body goes horizontal blood flows equally throughout and you wake up. It is not a medical emergency. I've seen it more on long haul flights but a couple of times a month is not unusual. Sit them up when they feel able, cold towel to the neck and a few sips of water are about all that is needed. Oxygen is grabbed just because it is there but it usually is not necessary but provides psychological comfort.

One interesting thing about oxygen. On an airplane we just grab it willy nilly. You can seriously harm some people with O2 if they have certain disease processes. In a hospital it requires a physicians prescription or written order to give a patient oxygen. The order stipulates the flow rate, type of mask and how often to check blood oxygen levels (I carry a little pulse oxymeter in my pocket. It's that little thing the doctor or nurses places on the end of your finger for a few seconds. Most of us are in the 97-100% range unless you have emphysema, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease--I have seen people walking and acting normally with a pulse ox of 88% which would put me unconscious.)
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Cipango
Posts: 1498
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:55 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:54 am

I have only ever seen one person faint on a BA flight to PVG. The sad part was that it showed our priorities in life nowadays as some peoples first reaction was to take pictures of the poor woman lying on the floor.

However, one British man sitting quite a few rows back jumped up and assisted, while shouting at those taking pictures.
Let's fly! Unless it's on a CRJ 200, then I'll stay down here.
 
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CARST
Posts: 1555
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:00 pm

Re: Fainting on flights

Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:34 pm

Lofty wrote:
The only medical assistance at LHR is to call a medical emergency - this would involve a 999 call and an emergency ambulance / cycle.


That's what 999 is there for in the UK? I thought it only existed to report that Will Griggs is on fire?! ;)
 
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kgaiflyer
Posts: 2741
Joined: Sat Jul 19, 2008 3:22 am

Re: Fainting on flights

Wed Jul 20, 2016 4:52 pm

Some pharmaceuticals have to unexpected effect of causing dizziness upon standing. For instance folks who have been prescribed Alpha-blockers - used to lower high blood pressure - are at risk of fainting. But apparently any pharmaceutical that works on the vascular system does this, also. I'm guessing that one can stand in place for a few seconds (stop walking) and the feeling will pass.

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