Drug issues with pilots


Everyone does take drugs when necessary to, there are no exceptions for pilot too, when they get sick then for sure, pilots need drug to control the sickness. However, there are some drugs are potentially disable pilots flying abilities such as judgement and delaying reaction time. Hence, there is a serious issue for pilots to understand how drug affect them.


Normally, if a pilot is sick enough to taking antibiotics, it indicates that the pilot is sick enough for not carry out the flying duties. However, there are antibiotics is still permissible, usually the drug must wait for at least 48 hours to rule out any side effects.

A list of acceptable antibiotics with clinical side effects


Nausea, Diarrhoea, indigestion, heartburn, vomiting, skin reaction with unexplained rash and loss of appetite


Watery diarrhoea, blood in stools, sore throat and mouth, skin rash, difficulty breathing


Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, thrush, vaginal yeast infections (only happen in female)


Nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhoea, vaginal yeast infection (only happen in female), ear and eye discomfort

Those antibiotics are the most common in use to treat any primary infections and they contain the lightest side effects on human. Those side effects are not essentially appear, some side effects only occur when over dose.
Furthermore, junior pilots tend to easily receiving motion sickness in the cockpit, and motion sickness occurs when the brain (central nervous system) receives unexpected motion externally and the body cannot cope with the motion, and then it affects the pilot balance and equilibrium abilities. And the symptoms of air motion sickness are nausea, vomiting headache, drowsiness and loss of appetite.
If a pilot is having antibiotics treatment while they receive the motion sickness in the cockpit. The symptoms will associate with the common antibiotics side effect, and then the pilot will put all of the passengers in a risk.


The function of the anti-histamines is to relieve any symptoms caused by allergies such as Hay fever. And allergy is caused by the certain cells in the body over react from external irritation. However, the side effects of antihistamine would be very dangerous for pilot to carry out the flying duties. Even though the side effects are more likely happen in children and elderly people, there have no guarantee the side effects will not occur in adult.

The side effects of antihistamine:
Drowsiness, Headaches, Blurred vision, Constipation, Dry mouth, Dizziness

The side effects of antihistamine are very dangerous for pilot, hence, FAA is NOT approved any of the sedating medications at all.

For treating allergy, cold and decongestants FAA ONLY approved two medications as those medications are not considering as an antihistamine.

Pseudoephedrine & Phenylpropanolamine

Pseudoephedrine and Phenylpropanolamine can potentially reduce the blood flow and the production of mucus, hence, it widely use in nasal allergic symptoms also this medication is non-drowsy so it can also reduce the risks of getting sleepy. However, pilot should aware of the side effects of this drug.
• Disturbed sleep
• Increased heart rate
• Dry mouth

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4. MedTV. (2011). Amoxicillin. Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from MedTV
5. MedTV. (2011). Ciprofloxacin side effects. Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from MedTV
6. MedTV. (2011). Doxycycline side effects. Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from MedTV
7. Netdoctor. (2008). Sudafed decongestant tablets/ elixir (pseudoephedrine). Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from Netdoctor
8. Pilotfriend. (n.d.). Human factors in aviation: The effects of drugs and fatigue on pilot performance. Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from Pilotfriend
9. Pilot Medical Solutions, Inc. (2011). FAA accepted medications. Retrieved 10 October, 2011, from Pilot Medical Solution

Want to know more?

Pilot Medical Solutions
This page in Pilot Medical Solutions offers more detail infromation about the restrictions of drug use in pilot.

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