Why is this assessment necessary?
Aircraft cabins are pressurised to between 5,000 to 8,000 feet, which means that the partial pressure of oxygen inside the aircraft is lower than what we breathe in room air (at sea level).
As a result of the lower oxygen levels at altitude, most passengers will experience a decrease in oxygen saturation – the amount of oxygen circulating in the body. This is normally tolerated well in healthy individuals. People with cardiac and respiratory problems however, may experience complications.
The fitness to fly test will help evaluate how well your child will tolerate the reduced oxygen levels in the aircraft cabin.
What does an assessment involve?
The fitness to fly test takes place in a large yellow cabin that simulates being in an aircraft. The child sits inside the cabin for 20 minutes, during which a pulse oximetry probe will be attached to a finger or toe to assess oxygen saturation levels. Your child can take toys and a portable DVD player inside to keep them amused throughout the test. Parents can sit inside with younger children.
Nasal prongs will be secured at the beginning of the test. If required, oxygen will be provided via the nasal prongs while remaining in the cabin.
The results will be sent back to your consultant, who will contact you with a report.
How long will it take?
The assessment takes approximately 45 minutes. However, we would advise you to allow one hour for unexpected delays.
What to bring along?
You may wish to bring along a favourite toy, book or electronic game which can help as a distraction during the test. It can get hot inside the cabin, so if you need to sit inside the cabin with your child, you may wish to wear light clothing.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: July 2012
Ref: 2012F1384 July 2012
Compiled by the Arsenal Lung Function Unit in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.