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Long-Haul Flights May Promote High-Altitude Symptoms

Long-Haul Flights May Promote High-Altitude Symptoms

SEATTLE, July 5 -- Commercial airline passengers flying long distances at typical cabin pressures may experience discomfort that falls just short of mountain sickness, researchers reported.

In a study of volunteers in a hypobaric chamber simulating altitudes from 650 to 8,000 feet, ascent from ground level to 8,000 feet was associated with about a 4% drop in oxygen saturation, found J. Michael Muhm, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues, of the Boeing Company here, and Oklahoma State University in Tulsa.

The induced hypoxemia was sufficiently severe to add discomfort to airline passengers already enduring three to nine hours in cramped confines, the authors reported in the July 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"On the basis of our findings we conclude that maintaining a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet or lower (equivalent to a barometric pressure of 609 mm Hg or higher) on long-duration commercial flights will reduce the occurrence of discomfort among passengers," they wrote.


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