on December 21st, 2015 No Comments
Stanford Medicine Unplugged (formerly SMS Unplugged) is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category.
I had been looking forward to the seminar, which was led by emergency medicine faculty members, all week. During the holidays, I have to travel on several different flights to get home, and occasionally, a flight attendant has asked on the loudspeaker if there is a doctor on-board. I was excited to finally be in the know.
Much of the conversation during the first part of the seminar focused on a New England Journal of Medicine article on how physicians should handle in-flight emergencies. It noted that the most common reported medical event during a commercial flight is fainting; the most fatal is a heart attack. Interestingly, heart attacks make up only 0.3 percent of in-flight emergencies, but they cause 86 percent of in-flight deaths.
For the second part of the seminar, emergency medicine faculty told us anecdotes about times when they had been called on during a flight – some stories were haunting, others interesting tidbits – and walked through three different simulations. The law about medical professionals helping people during in-flight emergencies is vague regarding medical students. But I know this: If a doctor is called during one of my upcoming flights, I sure hope someone onboard is more qualified than I am.
In all, I gathered several practical tips that could be helpful to readers. If you are traveling and concerned about in-flight medical events, please consider this:
- Print or clearly write a list of medications you are currently taking. Include how often you take them and at what dose. Keep this readily accessible on the flight.
- Make sure to travel with these medications in your carry-on in case your checked luggage is lost.
- If you are traveling with someone you can confide in, make sure they know if you have any current illnesses. If not, please add this information to your list of medications.
- If you have an allergy to any medication, please write this on your list. Write what kind of reaction you have, whether it is a tightening in your throat or a rash.
- If you or a loved one does experience a medical event, stay calm.