Health Risks for Pilots


As pilots, no as humans we are subject to the limitations of our bodies. They illness we face everyday require us to take certain steps in order to reduce our risk. The main example is washing your hands before dealing with food. However, each industry has its own health risks that we need to be aware of so that we can take the necessary precautions or invoke change when technology can help.

In the aviation industry, pilots face a number of health risks that need to be understood and awareness levels risen in order for pilots themselves to be able to manage the risks they take.

Health Risks

Here is a list of some of the health risks that pilots face (mainly airline pilots) even day1:

Deep Vein Thrombosis
DVT is a health condition that can occur when a pilot (or passenger) may get if sit around too long. By understanding how this comes about, pilots are able to realise the need to move about every so often to prevent this from happening2.
Cabin Radiation
This simple refers to the significantly high levels of cosmic radiation that pilots and crew and subject to. However, not much is known about what long term effect that this exposure has3.
Not a lot is known about the long term effects of maintaining an altitude that is not sea level for long period of times. It is understood the short term effects of too high an altitude but little is known about maintain a level just below where these problems occur. The main issues with too high an altitude is4
This is whether the brain is not getting enough oxygen because the partial pressure of the oxygen content is too low. In other words, there is enough oxygen for the body to process. This condition is very serious, one because it can kill and two because people don't necessarily know it is happening to them. Some of the first stages effect the decision making skills of pilots5.
This is a condition where the body has not got enough water inside them. This can have some serious effects for the pilot. Not only can it increase the chance of DVT but is can also effect decision making skills, cause the body to react slower, increase fatigue. While dehydration is not a direct problem, it can snowball very quick by increasing other problems. It is important for pilots to understand because the cabin air, due to air conditioning, is often dyer than normal air6.
Fatigue / Stress
Though different issues they are often related, they have a tendency to increase the other. These are about having a balanced live and not working your body past it limits. Again, these factors can effect decision making skills7.
A simple condition where the body gets too cold. Though simple it should not be taken lightly, this can be a serious issue especially during emergencies8.

These are some of the key issues that pilots face. However, each section within the industry has its own challenges. Understanding what the risks factors are for you area may help save you live or that of others.

Information is Key

Most of the health risks that pilots face can be reduced with a bit of preparation and understanding. Knowing what your body does when faced with these issues means you can identify when a particular condition is happening and take steps to reduce or remove the situation. As mentioned above most of these even in mild cases can start to effect decision making, something that pilots need to keep a level head for. Therefore, take the necessary steps to reduce your risk. This will not only save lives but will mean that pilots will be looking after their bodies.

1. Fear of Flying Help and Plane Info (2006). Flying Health Risks. Retrieved from
2. fluffypig (September 2009). In Flight Health- Deep Vein Thrombosis. Retrieved from
3. fluffypig (September 2009). In Flight health- Cabin Radiation. // Retrieved from
4. Wiki (October 2011). //Effects of high altitude on humans. Retrieved from
5. smitty09 (September 2009). Hypoxia. Retrieved from
6. Fear of Flying Help and Plane Info (2006). Avoiding Dehydration on Flights. Retrieved from
7. AviationKnowledge (August 2011). Pilot Fatigue. Retrieved from
8. Johnson (October 2011). //Hypothermia. // Retrieved from
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Want to know more?

Effects Of Fatigue On Performance And Safety
The effects of stress on pilot performance
Just for the Health of Pilots
Environmental and Background Radiation — Airplanes
Health risks of frequent (occupational) flying
Neck pain and related disability in helicopter pilots: A survey of prevalence and risk factors.
Predictors of skin cancer in commercial airline pilot

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