Allergies - Nothing to Sneeze At
Spence, Aviation Writer and IFA Member
Watery eyes, sneezing, coughing'is
it just a cold or an allergy? To pilots, it makes a great deal of difference.
the U.S. Federal Air Surgeon's Bulletin: 'Aside from being uncomfortable, the
pilot with allergic rhinitis [clear watery nasal discharge] is more prone to
barotraumas [pain or discomfort in the ear because of differences in air
pressure inside the eardrum and outside the eardrum], changes in vision and
allergies, pilots may use certain approved medications. However, any approved
medication a pilot uses must be reported to the examining physician at the next
routine medical examination.
estimates, about one out of five people in the western hemisphere suffer from
some form of allergy. Why some develop them and others do not is not yet known.
Some medical personnel believe heredity plays a big role in their development but
what causes reactions in children is not always the same as that which affects
parents. Most reactions are not serious but cause discomfort and possibly flight
distractions. Some can cause an inability to breathe, or a severe drop in
grouped in general categories according to the type of substance that causes
them: skin, respiratory, food, drug, and insect stings. Symptoms vary. Sneezing,
nasal congestion, and coughing could indicate a respiratory allergy. Wheezing
might indicate asthma.
How do you tell
the difference between a cold and an allergy? With an allergy, most of the
symptoms'sneezing, congestion, runny nose, headaches, fatigue'occur at the same
time. With a cold, symptoms occur in sequence, usually beginning with sneezing,
then a runny nose, followed by congestion. The length of time for the symptoms
also differs. Duration for a cold usually is a week to ten days; allergy
symptoms remain as long as the irritant that causes the allergy is present.
Writing for the
Flight Safety Foundation, Stanley R. Mohler, M.D. says there are basically three
general methods to help people with allergies. First, avoid the substances
causing the reactions. This cannot easily be done for most people, but
dehumidifiers can help. Injections and antihistamines or other medications are
the other two treatments. If taking an injection, a pilot should wait a
sufficient time to be sure there is no reaction.
the more common method of treatment. Some medicines are available over the
counter and others require a prescription. Antihistamines have been in use for
more than a half-century. Some of the earlier ones often caused drowsiness, loss
of coordination, loss of alertness, or other side effects. Newer types of
medicines have fewer side effects. However, pilots should wait a period of time
after taking the medication before operating an aircraft. Doctors prescribing
the medication can give an indication about how long to wait to test for
Transportation Safety Board has cited anti-allergy drugs as the probable cause
or contributing factor to at least 15 accidents that occurred between 1996 and
nations have different regulations concerning the use of antihistamines by pilots.
Some restrict the time between taking the medication and flying and these times
often differ, some limit the kinds of medication that can be taken and still
pilot an aircraft. Pilots taking anti-allergy medications should check with
their medical examiners.
for this article came from several sources:
- Several items on WebMD by Paul Enright. M.D.
- Stanley R. Mohler, M.D. writing for Flight Safety Foundation. Dr. Mohler,
professor and vice chairman and director of aerospace medicine at the Wright
State University, Dayton, Ohio, holds an ATP rating and for 13 years was chief
of the FAA's Aeromedical Application Division.
information contained herein is meant for informational purposes only. Neither
IFA, nor Charles Spence assume any responsibility or liability for events that
occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information
given in this article. You are proceeding at your own risk. It is strongly
advised that you seek the opinion and advice of a qualified aviation medical
examiner and appropriate medical physician for any medical needs you may have.