Association Issues Medical Guidelines For Air Travel

May 10, 1998

WASHINGTON -- Dr. Russell B. Rayman, the executive vice president of the Aerospace Medical Association, today presented medical guidelines for airline travel prepared by a task force of his association.

The task force looked at ways doctors can advise their patients who have illnesses and are planning to travel by air, Rayman said. The recommendations are for patients with illnesses that could include pulmonary disease, asthma, emphysema and other common illnesses.

"These are not people who are acutely ill," Rayman said in an interview prior to delivery. "They are stable. For example, it could be a person who had an uncomplicated heart attack and could be fit for travel in three weeks."

Rayman spoke at a meeting of the Space and Underwater Research Group of the World Federation of Neurology. The meeting is being coordinated by the Stroke Research Center of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Rayman, whose extensive experience includes working on the Space Shuttle, the Lunar/Mars Mission and joint U.S.-Soviet programs, first discussed the stresses of travel.

"It can start with anxiety about the trip, walking through the airport, finding the gate," he said in the interview.

During the flight itself, there is the impact of the changing barometric pressure in the plane, the lower oxygen level, crowding and confinement in the seat, the vibration and noise of the cabin and jet lag and fatigue.

"You put all of this together and even normal people are affected," Rayman said. "There is no rigid approach to these problem."

The association's task force has put together recommendations for doctors that are general guidelines, he said. For example, a patient with emphysema may need to carry an oxygen supply or a person with a heart condition who may be affected by the lower barometric pressure may want to bring oxygen or may need to travel with an attendant.

Rayman, a former flight surgeon, has worked in aerospace medicine for more than 35 years. In 1989, he retired from the USAF after serving as the chief of the Aerospace Medical Consultants Division of the Office of the Surgeon General.

Following retirement, he worked for Lockheed Engineering and Sciences Co. and participated in major NASA Life Sciences activities that included the Space Shuttle, the Lunar/Mars Mission and joint US-Soviet programs.

In 1992, he was selected to his current position with the Aerospace Medical Association, an international group whose membership includes the spectrum of disciplines within that specialty.

The four-day meeting -- the Congress on Cerebral Ischemia, Vascular Dementia, Epilepsy and CNS Injury: New Aspects of Prevention and Treatment from Space and Underwater Exploration -- continues through Wednesday noon at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, formerly the Sheraton Washington.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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