Colds call for flying with care

January 21, 2009

Colds and flu call for careful planningCold and flu season is here again, and you may find yourself wondering whether or not you are OK to fly. While the FAA allows pilots to self-certify their medical ability to fly under FAR 61.53, that responsibility also comes with some limits. You can’t fly if you have a “medical deficiency” that is  medically disqualifying. And you shouldn’t  fly if you’re taking a medication that is not on the FAA’s “allowed” list. What’s more, if you’re wondering whether or not taking that flight is a good idea, it probably isn’t.

Symptoms like congestion that seem minor during routine activities can affect equilibrium or cause severe  pain as you transition from higher to lower altitudes. Antihistamines and decongestants contain ingredients that can cause adverse side effects at even modest general aviation altitudes. A little sniffle doesn’t have to keep you on the ground, but it’s better to be safely earthbound than to discover after takeoff that you are not at the top of your game.

If you’ve got questions about flying with a cold or the flu, or any other medical issues, call the medical certification experts in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA for answers.