Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to fall ill while 40,000 feet in the air? It’s an unsettling thought, but you shouldn’t let it scare you out of booking your next trip. According to a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, it’s highly likely that there would be a passenger onboard your flight with medical training who can assist you.
The study looked at nearly 12,000 medical in-flight emergency cases over three years that were handled by MD-STAT, a service at the University of Pittsburgh that advises airlines on how to handle these emergencies. Researchers found that there’s an in-flight emergency on about 1 of every 604 flights. Most situations involve dizziness or passing out (37 percent of cases), trouble breathing (12 percent), or nausea and vomiting (10 percent).
Fortunately for these 12,000 passengers, there was a doctor onboard the flight who volunteered to help in 48 percent of cases, and a nurse or other health care professional in another 28 percent of cases. That means that only 24 percent of people who became sick on a flight had to be cared for by flight attendants alone because no medical professional was present – or came forward to help. While no one is legally obligated to help in these emergency situations, they are legally protected from liability if they do, thanks to a federal Good Samaritan law known as the Aviation Medical Assistance Act. Of course, this applies only when flying in the United States, or with an American-based airline.
Only seven percent of these emergencies were urgent enough that the flights had to be diverted to the nearest airport. And even in the more serious cases that required the use of a defibrillator, which occurred in 136 of the cases, only 36 ill passengers died; 30 onboard the plane and six after landing. So, chances are pretty good that you’ll be in competent hands should something go wrong.
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Sources: yahoo.com and aafp.org