Passing out/fainting on flight - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation
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Passing out/fainting on flight

Lizziepea01
Lizziepea01

Hi,

I am so hoping for some advice here or even just anyone who has experienced similar. Flew to Tenerife last Friday and during the flight passed out at least 5/6 times. My husband tells me as I have very little recollection that I was hot and clammy, nauseas , no colour, I could hear people around me but couldn’t see. All very frightening, have to say air crew were very good.

Doctor came to the hotel lots of tests all fine, no ecg but will visit my own gp when I get home. He advised to continue with heart Med isosorbide mononitrate but to stop Doxazosin blood pressure tablet this was only 1mg anyway. His diagnosis was that my blood pressure must have drastically dropped during flight, I sort of had guessed that. I am montoring my blood pressure everyday 126/83 pulse 61 today.

Obviously I am now a little worried about the flight home, so any advice or experiences would be very reassuring

Lizziepea

37 Replies
oldestnewest

Sorry to hear about your problem. I hope you managed to get some enjoyment out of your holiday.

May I ask if you had eaten before getting on the flight and had plenty to drink?

I wonder why no ECG was recorded, you could have an arrhythmia, meaning that your heart is going in and out of the normal rhythm which could cause your symptoms. Perhaps ask your GP if you could get a 24 hour ECG which is a wee box you carry around in a pouch which records your heart rate and rythmm from the electrodes placed on your chest.

Do you have any lung issues? If so, perhaps your oxygen level is dropping?

Sometimes disc problems in the neck can cause fainting?

Everything is purely speculative, you really need an MOT. I suggest getting an early appointment with your GP when you get home and ensure that you eat something and drink plenty of water on the way home. Let us know how you get on

Take care

Hi,

Thank you for your reply, yes I had eaten and carry water with me all the time. It is the first time I have flown since starting on meds. Not aware of any other health issues. But I will go see GP as soon as I get home. Just need to remain calm and not freaked out by it!! Maybe a good job I have little recognition. Will let you know how I get on.

Kind regards

Anne

skid112
skid112Heart Star

Hi Lizziepea, I would guess low blood pressure as well, have you had any other experiences before? I know you mention in your previous post about fatigue and low blood pressure. Have you any compression socks with you? could you buy some at the airport as they may help you and drink more fluid on the flight

take care

Mark

Lizziepea01
Lizziepea01
in reply to skid112

Hi Mark,

Thank you for suggesting the socks can certainly try them. Yes I have suffered with blood pressure fluctuating just thought after 6 months of no problems I was stable.

Kind regards

Lizziepea

MichaelJH
MichaelJHHeart Star

Did you by any chance have an alcoholic drink, complimentary or otherwise, before or during the flight. Alcohol can cause a further reduction in blood pressure which combined with a slightly reduced cabin pressure might cause fainting. I suspect you would not have but mention it just in case.

Lizziepea
Lizziepea
in reply to MichaelJH

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your reply, no alcoholic drink. I have been doing a bit of reading on this and apparently it is quite frequent occurrence on flights. Will seek advice when I get home. In the meantime will keep an eye on blood pressure.

Kind regards

Lizziepea

Hi Lizziepea01, my husband has twice passed out on a plane, one just after take off on our to the Algarve & once on our way back from Spain before we even took off. Both times he' wasn't out for long but was very ill for the rest of the flight.,

After the Algarve flight he was taken to hospital & after various tests was discharged. He did however continue to have dizzy spells while we out there but was able to fly home OK. When we got back to UK he had a number of tests which were inconclusive but they fitted him with an ICD. After the Spanish flight we stayed overnight at an airport hotel, went to Dr's next day & was advised he had a virus, after a few days bed rest he was fine. We have flown a number of times between these episodes without any problems. Kevin is also on isosorbide monitrate l amongst other medication on and he's recently had it reduced as he's blood pressure was too low. We're flying out to Gibraltar this year so I've asked his nurse for advice & she said ensure you drink plenty of water, I know this works as dehydration reduces the BP considerably. Also, ask the cabin crew to keep the temperature in the cabin down, they did this for Kevin. Ensure you have plenty to rest & eat sensibly. Please try not to worry too much bout flying home you will ruin your holiday & & the chances are you will be fine. Keep in touch & let us know how things are xx

Lizziepea01
Lizziepea01
in reply to Lezzers

Hi,

Thank you, your reply has done much to ease my mind. It is a really frightening experience and I felt so embarrassed I know I shouldn’t have but people were just so kind and that made me very emotional. I was so relieved to hear that your husband has had similar experiences but mostly that it hasn’t happened every time. That is very comforting.

I have bought a blood pressure machine here and it is fluctuating but never high. I am going to see the TUI representative here and just speak about flying home, as my husband and I are sat separately, isle seats only a row apart, but if possible would feel happier next to him!!

Kind regards

Lizziepea

Hi the trip home from Spain was with TUI & they cleared a row of seats so Kevin could lay out as he felt he might go again, so definantely ask. I know what you mean about feeling embarrassed, when we were flying to to the Algarve the crew radio'd ahead & an ambulance was waiting on the tarmac for us. The other passengers were all held up while the paramedics sorted Kevin out but every one was so lovely & helpful getting our hand luggage for us etc. I take the view that it added to the excitement of their holiday & gave them a story to tell!! Certainly monitor your BP but please don't fixate on it unless it's very low, what readings are you getting? Remember drinking plenty of water is key, Kevin's BP often goes down to low 80's over low 50's, he just elevates his legs and drinks lots of water & that's gets it up in no time. Make sure you have plenty of rest, eat sensibly & enjoy your holiday. Xx

Hi All,

Thankfully flew home with no problems. What a relief! My husband works away and had taken an extra day to go with me to the GP’s. But the GP refused to see me even after I had explained everything said I wasn’t considered urgent, gave me two options to see a practise nurse for blood pressure or go to A & E. I am sure they would have been happy to see me after 10 days.

I contacted my Cardiologist’s secretary and saw him late in the evening as a private patient. I have now had 24 hour tape and awaiting results. I am so hoping that this was an isolated incident.

Will keep you up to date. Would just like to thank you all who replied for giving me great comfort that week, when I was feeling pretty scared.

Lizziepea

You are not alone Lizziepea.....I have also suffered with fainting and terrible non stop nausea on a few long haul flights, where I have had to lie down to stop the vomiting. It usually starts when I have been asleep for a while in a sitting position, then I feel myself going all clammy and cold sweaty feeling, then I faint. When I come round the nausea starts and boy, it doesn't stop until I lie flat (usually when the crew move some passengers, so i can lie down on their seats).......it is frightening, especially when you are on your own and have no one to help you besides the crew. My doctor just says I should take ginger biscuits and nausea tablets, but while they do help a bit, the tablets make me sleepy and I am scared of falling asleep.......it's scary as i have to fly long haul 4 times a year. Would appreciate any other suggestions if anyone has the same experience.

Faintingonflights

Hi,

So sorry to hear this I know how frightening this can be. I have flown many times since and last month a long haul of 19 hours, and although I am always a bit anxious it has never happened to me again.

I saw my Cardiologist straight after it had happened last year just really for re-assurance that there was nothing else going on, and he suggested that on the days that I fly I take no medication. He said that missing a day would do me no harm, I currently only take Isosorbide Mononitrate and Rosuvastatin.

Whether this has been key to no more fainting episodes I don’t know, but the Isosorbide Mononitrate helps to reduce blood pressure, so may have contributed to blood pressure dropping. I was also advised to take plenty of fluids and eat plenty of snacks during the flight. It works for me, but I wouldn’t advise anyone stopping taking medication without talking to doctor or specialist.

I do hope you can get this sorted, I was very frightened by it.

Best Wishes

Lizziepea

Hi! I have the exact same problem for a while now. It doesn’t seem to matter if I drink alcohol or not, if I’m tired or rested, dehydrated or not. It also doesn’t matter if I’m lucky enough to get a fully flat seat. It usually happens in the 5th/6th hour of the flight. I tend to be fine and go with no fainting only if I lay down and raise my arms to breathe with my diaphragm, giving the lungs the best chance of getting as much oxygen as possible. The downside of breathing like that is the higher risk of an infection.

I think (but not sure) it’s an oxygen deficiency issue but seeing an aviation medicine specialist next week.

Has anyone had any medical diagnosis that was useful and worked long term?

So sorry to hear this, it is frightening, for people around us as much as ourselves. I have only experienced it once. I will be very interested to hear what this specialist has to say.

Thanks for responding......I would be very interested in what the specialist has to say, please keep us posted, thank you.

I have the exact thing and no one can tell me for sure what it is. I have traveled thousands of miles by plane and many of them drinking and possibly inebriated. However just 2 years ago I passed out for the first time. Got checked out and everything was fine. Doc said it probably would never happen again. Well it did! It doesn't matter if I drink water all day, eat, no alcohol, whatever! Completely random. It has now made me paranoid to fly! I've never been on medication or had a heart problem, and I'm physically fit. It sucks!!!

Hi there,

Very interesting reading about your experience, it is exactly what happens to my husband on so many flights, especially long haul. He falls asleep usually after meal service and an alcoholic drink, then suddenly he rouses and he is cold to touch, sweating profusely, his colour is awful, and then he passes out, doesn’t vomit. The cabin crew are always helpful, take his BP, give him some oxygen, and when they’d ask about his health and I tell them he has had 2 heart attacks (14 years ago now) and stents in, mild asthma, BP etc they seem quite alarmed. Thankfully he recovers, but the only thing we can come up with is that he falls asleep with his head dropped forward and I think his airway is restricted, and with the normally reduced oxygen in the cabin, is the trigger. He has tried staying awake and he’s fine then, it’s definitely linked to falling asleep sitting upright with his chin on his chest. Anyway I hope that his story helps you and anyone else suffering similar episodes, while I look for a solution, unfortunately lie flat business class ticket is out of the question.

Hi this exact thing happened to me, more than once. I put it on fb for help, and a lady asked me what i had eaten or drank? I said chocolate, and cappuccino. I was then told to keep off citrus fruit, milk, chocolate and caffeine before and during a flight. Touch wood, since then, it hasn't happened. Not once. Hope this helps. Xx

I've flown many times since then, and have felt fine, thank goodness. As when this paralysis, blindness, headache and being sick happened, I was absolutely fine when getting off the plane. As if nothing had happened. I couldn't alert anyone either at the time. It's scary.

Yes it is very scary as well as embarrassing because you feel you are causing a scene for the other passengers around you, especially if you start being sick. I have just got to ask if I can lie flat to stop being sick. I once landed up in an airport clinic as they got their paramedics to take me there once the plane had landed on a stop over.....then I missed my connecting flight and had to pay penalty fees. Not a fun flight at all. 😣

When it happened to me I automatically thought it was connected to my heart, I have 2 blocked arteries (not enough to put stents in). I went to see my cardiologist as soon as I got home and he could find nothing wrong, just said it is something that can happen to anyone anytime. Can I ask do you have any other health problems? Although it is quite a known condition, I have never seen anyone else having one of these episodes

Hi Lizziepea, I only have mild asthma, related to allergies linked to hayfever etc, so it's nothing serious and these episodes only happen when I fly long haul, so it's got something to do with the air pressure/altitude.....something you cannot control.

I have no health issues and it happens to me but completely random. It just started a couple of years ago. I felt nauseous all of the sudden (never happens even on land) and went to go to the lavatory, and the next thing I knew I was looking up at the stewardess from the floor. It happened again a year later. Doesn't matter if I eat, drink tons of water, just random. I've even flown with a horrible cold and run down and have been fine. I wish something could be done but my doctor says I'm ok. This is not ok.

No it isn’t ok is it, frightening for us and others. It is difficult to get any answers on this gp’s just not interested. Hopefully the person on here who is getting specialist help will report bank to us

Hi Lizziepea and fellow fainters

I too have experienced this on long haul flights. For me it has only happened on outbound flights and I can't identify any pattern (eg: whether I have a glass of wine or not doesn't seem to matter). I'm generally very healthy, however my blood pressure tends to run on the lower side. My friends have joked they won't sit with me anymore.

I've been advised that it's fairly common and is related to blood pressure and the lower oxygen available in the cabin. It's usually benign/not serious in most cases. It looks worse than it is and people typically recover spontaneously. I've had medical personnel called which is a bit embarrassing. I've asked my very worried husband to advise crew of "syncope" and to offer me cool cloths for my neck and face and wait it out.

On one flight, a very experienced flight attendant gave me a plastic wine bottle filled with warm water; it was very soothing and stopped my chills and shaking.

It's nice to know we're not the only one.

Lizziepea
Lizziepea
in reply to JoMoKe

Hi, yes I think you have hit the nail on the head there, that we are not on our own and that for me is quite comforting. Certainly the cabin crew seemed to know what it was and how to assist. Think other passengers were more scared. Also helps if there are spare seats and you are able to lay out. Still dread flying just in case and that doesn’t help!

Msinha
Msinha
in reply to JoMoKe

Agreed, putting a cold soft drink bottle below my ears helped me out, the last time. I had to ask the flight attendant to exchange the bottle twice, everytime it reached room temperature.

I had a fainting episode whilst travelling alone on a long haul flight last year. I managed to come round from it and my fellow passengers didn’t even notice. The disturbing thing is that a couple of hours afterwards I got up to go to the toilet and my leggings were soaking wet ! I must have had a wee when I fainted and had absolutely no idea I’d done this ! Has anybody else experienced this?

kjsto
kjsto
in reply to Magenta12

Yes. Twice. When we faint and muscles relax the bladder empties. Very embarrassing!

Hidden
Hidden

Just last week on a long haul flight to Malaysia I suddenly came over feeling weak, cold and clammy and had pins and needles in my hands and feet.

I felt like I was going to pass out and wanted to lay down.

I tried my best not to black out because I didn't want to freak the person sitting next to me. I blacked out a short while later.

Not sure how long I was out for.

Luckily everyone was asleep and lights had been dimmed. Also I had my seat belt on which stopped me ending up in the Isle.

When I came around I was totally disorientated and in shock. It was like a near death experience and quite frightening. I was washed out for 24hrs later but recovered quickly as I am fit and play lots of sports.

I feel like it was a blood pressure problem.

I'm glad I've read other people's stories as I now feel a bit more reassured.

It's the second time this has happened to me. This time was much worse than the first.

Not a nice experience

Glad to hear everything was ok on your return flight home like you I have a week hoilday coming up early October not booked anywhere don't think we will be going had an espisode at work Wednesday an had to be taken home it's quite scary I went away in July an was on pins all the 10 days we were away so glad when we landed back home .Got an appointment with cardiologist in October after having a ct scan my gp knows my results but won't tell me .

I have similar problems. I was ill with food poisoning on a flight home to the UK from Italy. On some (not all) subsequent flights I feel uncomfortable, hot, sometimes sweating profusely (very unusual for me) and have fully passed out twice. Checks in hospitals have concluded dehydration (probably for a number of days) and exhaustion.

On a flight to Malta I asked a cabin crew for water because I realised it was happening again. We had a chat and she had the cabin temperature lowered and gave me a bottle of water. Within minutes I was fine.

It's a horrendous experience which I'm trying to overcome.

kjsto
kjsto
in reply to kjsto

My most recent flight was ok. I monitored the colour of my pee:-

Clear and colourless = fully hydrated

Dark almost brown = very dehydrated - drink water!

Kept drinking water until it became very pale or colourless. No problems on the flight apart from needing to go to the loo.

Not a nice post, but it might help someone.

Lizziepea
Lizziepea
in reply to kjsto

Thank you for letting us know this, anything at all is a help for all of us, such an awful experience and it is difficult not to get hang ups regarding flying. I for one will be trying this when I fly next.

Only heard something about this the other day about low cabin pressure and cadiac patients should be careful

I was given some anti nausea pills from the GP, which are recommended for people going through chemotherapy and suffer with the nausea side. They are called Zofer 4mg Ondansetrin which you take an hour or so into the flight. They last for 7 to 12 hours. Seemed to work. Plus I take a few Dextrose sweets with me which pumps up the glucose. I also noted that on the 380 aircraft I suffer less than on the 777 aircraft (smaller). I always ask for more sick bags to have on hand if I need them and also warn the attendant that this happens to me and i must lie flat (even if it has to be on the floor) .......my last flight in 777 I had to lie on the kitchen floor (thank goodness it was not busy then) then after half an hour or so i had stabilized so could go back to my seat. Really think airlines need to have a "sick area" on the plane to put people like us.

It is scary and only happened to me once fortunately but I am always on edge when flying. Which doesn’t help. I always ensure I have eaten a meal just before getting on the plane and have plenty of water and snacks at hand. If at all I start to feel unwell and I am absolutely sure some of it is panic now I get out of my seat and find somewhere to lie flat (not easy I know) and it passes. I was convinced it was down to heart problems but my cardiologist insists it is not, It is solely down to cabin pressure and can effect anyone. However I take no heart meds or medication of any sort on the days I am flying this was advised by cardiologist but everyone is different.

Hope you get sorted. It is embarrassing and people around you always kind, I am told it is so regular that all aircrew have experienced.

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