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What is hypoxia?

A state where the body's organs (especially the brain) do not get enough oxygen.


What are the four types of hypoxia?

Hypoxic, hypemic, stagnant, histotoxic.


What is hypoxic hypoxia?

Insufficient oxygen available to the body. The type of hypoxia you get at high altitude without supplemental oxygen or pressurization.


What is hypemic hypoxia?

When the blood is unable to take up and transport sufficient oxygen. Most common form is carbon monoxide poisoning, since CO binds to hemoglobin tighter than oxygen.


What is stagnant hypoxia?

When blood does not flow effectively to tissues that need oxygen. Can be caused by heart disease or by excessive G forces.


What is histotoxic hypoxia?

When cells are poisoned and cannot use oxygen effectively. Can be caused by alcohol or other drugs, or by cyanide poisoning.


What are common symptoms of hypoxia?

Cyanosis (blue fingernails and lips), headache, decreased reaction time, impaired judgment, euphoria, visual impairment, drowsiness, lightheadedness/dizziness, tingling in fingers and toes, numbness.


Why can it be hard for pilots to recognize and take action against hypoxia?

Symptoms come on gradually. Not all pilots experience the same symptoms in the same order. Euphoria and impaired judgment are common early symptoms - being hypoxic makes it harder to recognize hypoxia.


For a normal healthy pilot, symptoms of hypoxia start to occur around what altitude?

12,000 feet


What should a pilot do if they recognize they are experiencing hypoxia?

Start using supplemental oxygen (if available) and descend to a lower altitude.


For the best protection from hypoxia, at what altitude does the FAA recommend using supplemental oxygen?

Above 10,000 feet during the day, and above 5,000 feet at night.


What causes ear or sinus block?

The middle ear and sinuses have small openings to the nose/throat that allow them to equalize pressure with the outside air. If congestion narrows or blocks these passages, it creates a pressure differential, which causes unpleasant symptoms.


During what phase of flight do ear and sinus blocks most commonly occur?



What are common symptoms of ear block?

Severe ear pain, some loss of hearing, possible rupture of the eardrum.


What are common symptoms of sinus block?

Severe pain in the sinus area, ache in the upper teeth, possible dischage of bloody mucus from the nose.


What is the best way to avoid ear/sinus block?

Do not fly with an upper respiratory infection or untreated nasal allergies.


How can a pilot fix a minor ear block?

Swalllowing, yawning, tensing throat muscles, Valsalva maneuver (holding mouth and nose closed and blowing gently)


Why not just use a decongestant to prevent ear/sinus block?

Decongestant sprays and drops usually aren't strong enough. Oral decongestants are, but their side effects can significantly impair pilot performance.


Why is it hazardous to fly shortly after scuba diving?

Diving exposes you to higher pressure, which dissolves additional nitrogen into the blood. Flying then exposes you to lower pressure, which encourages dissolved nitrogen to bubble out of the blood. These bubbles can cause various symptoms.


How long should pilots and passengers wait after scuba diving before flying?

Up to 8,000' - 12 hours if dive didn't require controlled ascent, 24 hours if it did. Above 8,000' - 24 hours.


What are some symptoms of decompression sickness?

Joint pain ("the bends," mostly in large joints), itching/tingling skin, chest pain and shortness of breath, various neurological symptoms (confusion, mood/behavior changes, seizures, etc.)


What should pilots do if altitude-induced DCS occurs?

Put on an oxygen mask immediately and set the regulator to deliver 100% oxygen. Begin an emergency descent and land as soon as possible. After landing, contact an AME, flight surgeon, or other doctor experienced with aviation or hypobaric medicine. Treatment may require use of a hyperbaric chamber.