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Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

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AngelHeart Find out more about AngelHeart
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  • Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

    Has anyone with shortness of breath and occasional CP had diffculty flying on airplanes?

    Ever had a physician order that you NOT fly?

    If so, why not and what would be the risk if you are symptomatic?

    I'm used to feeling some difficulty breathing while flying and during the first few days on high altitude mountains BUT I never considered it to be abnormal ...... Just me.

    Ready for my trip to "MAYO" in the AM. Only I've been having frequent neck/ chest pressure, blood pressures running 150s/100 and SOB just raising my hands above my head so I'm expending little energy to keep these symptoms at bay as much as possible

    Visited an Urgent Care this past weekend and got an ECG. It was normal so I wasn't going to worry about it. My intention was to avoid the ER and an unnecessary hospital admission.

    I cannot miss my appt at Mayo.

    Experience as taught me that local hospitals can't help me and I end
    up with more problems when I'm discharged.

    The UC visit ended with a PA telling me my ECG was fine. Go home call my drs office now( on a Saturday, huh?) and if I couldn't reach her, go to the closest ER..... Oh and BTW , she says. Shouldnt fly until my dr clears me. I felt like a hot potato she didn't want to deal with. Too many mixed messages from someone who basically says my problem
    Is chronic I'm not too concerned BUT call your doctor on a saturday anyway...

    Any thoughts and experiences about high altitudes are much appreciated.

    AngelHeart

  • #2
    Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

    Never had any issues and never told not to fly.
    Onward and Upward !

    Diagnosed 4/07 HCM with fixed & dynamic obstruction
    Myectomy with resected cordonae tendonae 4/08 CCF
    ICD 10/08

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

      The only issue i have ever had is trying to hustle accross the airport to make a connection. latley my attitude is i miss the flight i get the next one. i am not going to go into arrest over it.

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      • #4
        Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

        I was symptomatic, but not yet diagnosed with HCM when I had a problem with altitude. I could not get healthy enough to get back to work in Ohio (Elevation above sea level=902 ft).... so I decided to go for an extended visit see my sister in Tooele Utah- (4479 ft above sea level).
        Here is an article talking about much greater altitude problems, but the principles are the same:

        http://wikitravel.org/en/Altitude_sickness

        I drove by myself and as I went over the mountains to get there, I felt tired, but when I got to her house, I ended up flat in bed for 2 days- adjusting to the altitude. About 5 weeks later, I had an episode where I was taken to the hospital, with what they thought was a "normal" heart attack. Chest pain- severe whole body sweat, elevated treponin, etc. When they took me for a cardiac cath to put stints in, they found out my arteries were essentially clear, tried to "look around" to find out what was going on so to speak, and found the gradients that led to the HCM diagnosis (after they reviewed my Echo).

        I had an alcohol ablation and felt much better. when I followed up with the doctor who did my ablation, we were discussing my situation and when I told him about coming to Utah(to visit) and that I had had chest pain and shortness of breath in Ohio, he sort of stood back and said, "let me get this straight....you were having those symptoms in Ohio, then came to the mountains for a vacation???....Hmmmmmm!!!!"

        so....basically, we have chest pain because we are not getting enough oxygen to our hearts for whatever reason, and it cramps. When you travel to a higher elevation the air has less pressure- it is "thinner" and we get less oxygen with each breath.

        Before I went to Utah, I had been at the top of the Shilthorn mountain in Switzerland (9744 ft above sea level), and that was the first place I remember getting very lightheaded, almost passed out. And yes I was symptomatic even before we rode to the top of the mountain.

        How anyone tolerates high altitude will depend on how well your heart is getting oxygen at a normal elevation.

        Airplane travel is a little different- a whole other science discussion! LOL

        Take care- JudyA
        Dx Dec 2005 - HOCM with gradient of 80at rest, provokable to 150. Alcohol Ablation on Dec 22, 2005.
        Echos in April 2007 shows 0 gradient at rest, but gradient of 100 on provocation

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        • #5
          Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

          There is some kind of protocol regarding air travel with a heart issue - I don't recall if it had to do with recent surgery or what. I think it was started a long time ago and people tend to ignore it now. I'm sure different airlines have different rules. My only advice is to get up and walk often. Drink water and lots of it.
          Marc
          Diagnosed @ 48
          Saw Dr. Michael Debakey @ age 5 - "He's fine, just a little noisy"
          Father to 3 boys 22, 25, 29 (all currently clear - pending genetics)
          AICD - Valentines Day '08, Spark Plug replaced 11/14
          After much research, I had a Myectomy @ Mayo for my 50th Birthday '08
          Quietly going insane . . .

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          • #6
            Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

            I've never had problems flying -- well, except for the crowding and the bad treatment of passengers!

            Marc's advice is important: hydrate! A lot! The air on planes is dry, and added to the low pressure, we lose a lot of water -- and that's a good way to get symptomatic.

            Gordon
            Myectomy on Feb. 5, 2007.

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            • #7
              Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

              Thanks Everyone for chiming in on this subject. Judy~ the link was very informative.

              Cheers! I'm drinking already......WATER that is...HYDRATION sounds like the key.

              Anticipation of this flight is less intimidating now.

              Yes, as Lisa would say " KNOWLEDGE is POWER!"


              Thanks

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                Originally posted by AngelHeart View Post
                Thanks Everyone for chiming in on this subject. Judy~ the link was very informative.

                Cheers! I'm drinking already......WATER that is...HYDRATION sounds like the key.

                Anticipation of this flight is less intimidating now.

                Yes, as Lisa would say " KNOWLEDGE is POWER!"


                Thanks
                Hi, I am from the UK where the medical people share very little info with patients. I pass out when I fly without oxygen and alway have to arrange the supply of oxgen from the airline before I fly. I also have to make sure it is high enough as a little flow of 2/4 is not going to be enough for someone with Hocm, like me, (I am told my obstruction is 37mm). Not all airlines can supply a higher level than that. Before I was able to arrange oxygen I was told not to fly by my doctor. The last time I collapsed during a flight they had some difficulty with resusitation. Now I have the oxygen I fly quite well if the overall level on the plane does not fall too low. Sometimes to lower costs the airlines allow oxygen levels to drop. I feel the difference very quickly even when on my supplimentary supply.

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                • #9
                  Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                  There *are* people who can't tolerate the reduced oxygen at higher altitudes.

                  Bubbabayla, when you get a chance, please introduce yourself in the "Hello! My name is . . ." forum.

                  Gordon
                  Myectomy on Feb. 5, 2007.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                    I travelled often to attend sales meetings around the country and before I had a myectomy symptoms of angina, chest tightness and SOB were common when I was at the airports, as well of course, on the flight itself. Even if I hydrated, I still would suffer some aggressive symptoms. I really dreaded flying. I could have similar symptoms in large closed areas such as shopping centers and hotels.

                    One flight to Las Vegas really exacerbated my HCM so much that when i was at a meeting at the Venetian Hotel with smoke and bad air I ended up at a local ER as they thought I was having a heart attack. I told them I had HCM but nobody listened. I had a cardiac cathertization and some other tests that showed I had HCM. No kidding! Never tell a company doctor that you are having chest pains as they automatically shoot you to the ER. Anyway, after that I went to Tufts and had a myectomy. Much, much better! But I still can become somewhat symptomatic on flights due to dehydration so I drink copious amounts of water. Maybe as a previous poster said there are also lower amounts of oxygen on these flights that I react to. This may also be the case in large hotels and shopping centers where they manage the air.
                    Last edited by kirbyj; 02-20-2012, 12:48 PM. Reason: Error
                    Diagnosed HCM 1998
                    Myectomy June 2010
                    50 mg Toprol XL

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                    • #11
                      Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                      I had a difficult flight out to Wyoming from Pennsylvania this past September as I have posted about previously. Commercial airlines, from what I understand, are only required to maintain a cabin pressure equivalent to an 8000 foot elevation, which can certainly provoke symptoms in some of us HCM'ers. It wasn't enough to cause alarm, or alert the crew to any difficulty, but I did find it much more difficult to breathe during the flight. It was a bit uncomfortable to say the least.
                      "Some days you're the dog... some days you're the hydrant."

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                      • #12
                        Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                        Hi all. In the last 2 months I've been to Europe and back twice from California. I can attest to the importance of drinking water. Of course, then you have to get up and go to the bathroom a lot more often, which is probably good too as it helps to keep from getting cramped, etc.

                        I hold an FAA Airline Transport Pilot rating, and I'm happy to say that fortunately there is no such thing as controlling oxygen levels in a plane to save money- otherwise the airline probably WOULD do it! Modern jets are pressurized with ambient air bled off the compressor stage of the engines, which is then filtered, cooled, and brought into the cabin. Most airplanes are pressurized so that at cruise altitudes of over 30,000 ft the cabin altitude is 6000 - 8000 ft. So, if you have symptoms while on an 8000 ft mountain, you'd have the same in an airplane. The amount of oxygen is just a function of less air density at altitude.

                        If you have concerns about the amount of oxygen you are getting, you can buy a small portable O2 sensor that clips onto your finger so you can check sats next time you travel. If they are low then you might want to consider supplemental oxygen while flying. By the way, most small single-engine prop planes are not pressurized, so whatever altitude you fly at is the cabin altitude!

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                        • #13
                          Re: Flying @ High Altitudes w/ Symptoms

                          Thanks for the info, Chuck. I never knew how the pressurization and air supply works. I'm sure others will like to know this too.
                          Reenie

                          ****************
                          Husband has HCM.
                          3 kids - ages 23, 21, & 19. All presently clear of HCM.

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