Training and licensingAviation medicineAllergy and flying

Allergy and Flying

Allergic symptoms may cause problems when flying, since swollen mucous membranes
may block the passage of air to the tympanic cavity and sinuses, which may cause severe
pain when air pressure in the cabin changes as the aircraft descends or climbs. This kind
of pain may seriously interfere with safe piloting of the aircraft.

Moreover, food or drug allergies may also sometimes cause even life-threatening general allergic reactions, which naturally prevent safe piloting of the aircraft.

Allergies are often treated with antihistamines, and they usually relieve the symptoms quite well. However, as a side effect, antihistamine drugs often cause drowsiness, which may compromise traffic safety. Newer drugs developed during recent years have a less sedative effect than older antihistamines, but even the new drugs may cause drowsiness and fatigue in some people and cannot therefore be recommended for use when flying.

Prohibited drugs

A general rule is that antihistamines should not be taken within 48 hours before flying. Antihistamine drugs are sold in Finland under the following brand names:

Classical antihistamines causing more drowsiness: Atarax, Disofrol and Rinomar.
Newer antihistamines causing less drowsiness: Aerius, Alzyr, Cetirizin (Biochemie, Generics and Ratiopharm), Cirrus, Clarinase, Clarityn, Clarityn-S, Duact, Gardex, Heinix, Kestine, Loratadin (Alpharma, Biochemie, Generics and Ratiopharm), Mizollen, Semprex, Telfast and Xyzal, Zyrtec.

The prohibition applies to both above mentioned groups of medicines, with the following exceptions:
The following antihistamines (feksofenadine, loratadine and their derivatives) may be used with the aviation medical examiner’s permission, if they have been proved not to cause drowsiness for the person concerned during a test of at least 3 days outside flying duties: Aerius, Clarinase, Clarityn, Clarityn-S, Loratadin (Alpharma, Biochemie, Generics and Ratiopharm) and Telfast.

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