COPD & Emphysema Support Group

COPD is a progressive disease characterized by airflow obstruction or limitation. Emphysema is characterized by loss of elasticity of the lung tissue, destruction of structures supporting the alveoli and of capillaries feeding the alveoli. Both have symptoms that include shortness of breath, among other respiratory troubles. If you are a COPD or Emphysema sufferer, join the group and find support.

0 Online

Air Travel

I was just reading the newspaper online, and in the travel section I saw this headline highlighted. (The date is a bit of a mystery but maybe they had to go through their archives to fill up the section today).

It might be useful to some of you though. Just want to add that I flew 10 months ago and was in the air for over 4 hours. I was very, very short of breath by the time I saw my friend, NOT from flying but from the long, slightly uphill walk from the arrival gate to the luggage pickup.

Air travel with lung problems can be safe

December 4, 2007 - 10:05AM

People with emphysema and other serious lung diseases can safely travel by aeroplane, but they should be evaluated by their doctor beforehand, according to researchers.

In a study of 500 lung disease patients surveyed after a planned a flight, British researchers found that 18 per cent suffered some type of respiratory symptom on the plane - most commonly shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain.

However, the symptoms were typically moderate, and there were no serious incidents requiring an emergency landing, the researchers report in the European Respiratory Journal.

Importantly, though, all of the study participants were evaluated by a lung specialist before their flight, and 11 per cent of all patients ended up canceling their plans. This was often because their doctor advised against it. In other cases, the need to travel with supplemental oxygen was the obstacle; some patients did not want to do it, while others could not because the airline prohibited it.

The findings suggest that even serious lung disease need not be a barrier to flying, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Robina K. Coker of Hammersmith Hospital and the Imperial College London.

"We would advise that patients with serious lung disease check with their doctor before they fly to ensure the doctor is happy with them traveling and that they have enough medication to cover their trip," Coker said.

The study included patients recruited from 37 respiratory medicine clinics in the UK. Of 616 patients who were planning to travel by air, 500 completed questionnaires within two weeks of their flight.

While most of the patients had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, the second-most common condition was diffuse parenchymal lung disease, a collection of conditions marked by inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue.

As mentioned, 18 per cent reported having some symptoms while in the air. There was also some evidence that patients' health problems rose after flying. In the month before flying, nine per cent made unscheduled doctor visits for respiratory problems; that figure rose to 19 per cent during the post-flight month. Most often, these patients needed antibiotics for respiratory infections.

It's not clear, however, whether those infections were related to air travel, Coker said.

For now, she and her colleagues conclude, the current findings should "provide reassurance" to lung disease patients that, after careful evaluation by their doctor, air travel is "relatively safe."




There we go my Dale my friend, you can go to the ball lol.

Maybe you dont have to give up on your goal now.

Love ya.

Barcoo- Thanks for the great article. The Lung Doc took me off planes 6 years ago.

Did you fly with your own lung power? Or did you fly with additional O2? What type of COPD do you have? What is you FEV1? if you don't mind me asking.

I have been in physical training since January to get my body fat free and my muscles toned so they need not much O2. I am NOT on O2, have no SOBs except steep hills . My FEV1 was 37 .....six years ago, the last time I was tested.

Wow Karen, wouldn't that be really cool? The restoration of my 1969 Triumph TR6 by a non-mechanic here in the jungle is famous in the antique British circles. The major car show is in early June. Many internet friends would pass out with surprise if I showed up. That is what I am training for.

Thanks both,


I have noticed that since the no smoking on airplanes law started,they have not circulated the air on the planes as well, this may harm people with lung and breathing problems. Even peopl with no breathing problems have gotten off airplanes feeling dizzy and sick,due to lack of oxygen. Has anyone heard about this?

Thanks Karen for the interesting info as I'm planning a trip next month.

Best wishes,

This is a very encouraging article, Barcoo. I'm not on O2, but am very nervous about flying. For me the biggest reason is fumes. Of course the area around the airport is highly polluted, and I've been on flights in the past 10 years where the fumes on the airplane itself have been horrible. After the last time I flew, from WI to NY, I was sick within hours, and had a miserable time in the Big Apple. Was on antibiotics and prednisone for quite a while after.

I saw an article recently that talks about the fact that almost every airplane that is flying today has had, or will have, what they call "fume events", where fumes from the fuel tanks will actually get into the cabin. The reason for this is that the cabin air intakes are very near the fuel storage areas on the plane. Particles from these fumes actually stay on interior surfaces, such as seats and arm rests, and contains carcinogens. I'm not a mechanic, so I can't go into further detail, but the article certainly made me think twice.

There is a test that you can ask your doctor to give you, called the HAST test, which can predict how your breathing will be at 30,000 feet. I've never had this test before, but if I do have to fly, I plan to ask for it. Also, I would never think of traveling by air again with out taking an antibiotic and a steroid along just in case.

Thanks for posting this!
Hugs, Sue

Sounds like to me, not in the business of designing airplanes, that they need to make some changes.

Many people do not need the fumes in their life.

Having worked in the airline manufacturing industry for quiet a few years,I don't personally think you will see any redesign of the planes in the near future.

But to comment on the actual requirements within the concourse of any airport I would suggest that we all request a wheelchair on making reservations. I know for a fact that I can no longer make those long walks (at mach speed sometimes) from gate to gate and heaven help us if it is from concourse to concourse.

Also,as I understand it, wheelchair passengers are boarded first.

I have not made my first flight since falling into the severe stage but I have not given up either.

Sue's suggestion to never leave home wit out your prednisone and antibiotics is an absolute safety net.

Dale, maybe you and I should brave this together as we seem to be the ones that are waffling. :0)

I am planning a flight in May and got the OK from my Pulmonary Doc. I did ask for a wheelchair and to be seated near a plug for the portable O2. AirTran does not have plugs on their planes, so I am going to try to rent a belt to extend the O2 time while flying.


I know I can fly with very expensive O2 from the airlines. They charge per leg of the trip whether or not you actually use the O2. We cannot afford the O2, particularly if I don't need it.

I do not use O2 at all, for anything I do in my life. Other than steep streets I am never SOB, even on the treadmill after 1/2 hour.

I am trying to find out if someone in tip top physical condition but with severe COPD can fly without the use of O2.

I'm going to get an arterial O2 saturation test at the end of the month. Plus a bunch of other blood tests.



Just to add to this - I forgot to mention that I don't use O2 yet! I'm classed as severe and can't do anything much at all really without getting SOB. I know my FEV1 is poor but can't remember what it is exactly. I had no problems with fumes in the cabin (yet I can't tolerate strong perfumes and smells in the supermarket cleaning aisle). It was at the height of the swine flu scare, so I was pretty worried about the risks of that. I made two 4-hour trips 3 weeks apart and requested a waiting wheelchair on the return trip, which was an enormous help. And my name is Kate. Cheers!!

Thank you dear Kate!!

Your response was exactly on-point to my question.
You are NOT on O2, you are rated severe and flew on a long distance plane with only your own lungs.

I am the same as you but I think I am more able to do some active
things. You made my day! Unless my Doc says no way, w/out O2.

thanks sweetie!!


Only too happy to help, Dale. AND....there's more......I had absolutely no after effects from my flying even though it was in the middle of our winter. From what I've read of your posts you sound as fit as a fiddle and I reckon if I can do it you certainly could.

Kate, I am pretty much the same as your status except I do use 2L of 02 at night. If I am moving about, I am having to manage my breathing as it will go below the acceptable 90% really fast but will come back up if I sit for a couple of minutes.

Your ability to fly for 4 hours without problems will work for me. Because of my location I can reach any part in the US in that length of time. Did you find that there was enough air exchange on the aircraft that you could tell the air was moving. This is a biggie with me because unless I have air movement, my breathing becomes more difficult. I have heard others say the same thing.

Thank you for putting this post on the board.

Dale, you might consider having the HAST test as Sue suggested as that will be the defining test that will tell you if you can tolerate the altitude. I knew someone that had it and they were cleared to fly from Australia to the US and back. Just a suggestion.

Hugs, Anna

Cool! Maybe I can find a HAST tester.

I've done the 6 minute walk and got 600 yards covered at O2 sat of 92% and was NOT SOB.

we tested the hypothesis that walking capacity, assessed by the 6-min walk test (6MWT), could be related to the effect of flight simulation at sea level obtained by the hypoxia-altitude simulation test (HAST) in patients with chronic respiratory disease. Methods: There were 15 patients with interstitial lung disease and 15 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who were recruited. Their baseline SpO2 values ranged from 88 to 98%. All patients performed the 6MWT and HAST according to standardized methods. Results: Patients covered a walking distance ranging from 185 to 592 m without stopping while experiencing no to severe dyspnea. No correlation was found between dyspnea perception during walking, walking distance, and oxygen desaturation during HAST. The oxygen desaturation induced by the 6MWT was related to that after HAST (r = 0.52, p < 0.01). The bias and limits of agreement between the oxygen desaturation after the 6MWT and after the HAST were 0.8 and -6.6 to 8.2%, respectively. The baseline SpO2 could reliably predict the oxygen desaturation during HAST (r2 = 0.51). Conclusions: Our results showed that measurement of SpO2 during 6MWT can provide useful information for the preflight assessment and the in-flight oxygen prescription of patients with chronic respiratory disease.

Thanks for that explanation, Dale, it's most helpful!
Hugs, Sue
Posts You May Be Interested In:
  • marie21

    My acceptance of copf

    ifinally accepted the diagnosis.  I had Severe flare-up for the first time yesterday.  I can't sleep.   I'm 63 vibrant woman.  But it seems the COPD caught up to me and has moved into my life.    I'm frightened.   Sad.  
  • nana012

    I have cancer

    I had to have a lung biopsy, and I have cancer. A very rare form that doesn't have any standard treatment. There just isn't a lot of case history for this. It is epithelioid hemangio endothelioma. The cancer support group doesn't talk every day. I can understand why. I'm waiting for the oncologist to call back for an appointment, and will hear in the next few days. Who knew. Ha!