FIT TO FLY?
The FAA GA Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Topic of the Month
FLIGHT AFTER USE OF MEDICATIONS WITH SEDATING EFFECTS
To cope with sneezing and congestion, many people turn to over-the-counter medications and allergy remedies. Though effective, these are not without side effects.
They are great for treating allergies, colds, coughs, and even motion sickness. But they also have a function that can be especially troubling for those of us in aviation - they act as a sedative.
Side effects can include dry mouth, nose, and throat; drowsiness; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; loss of appetite; headache; muscle weakness; nervousness.
While it’s unlikely you will experience all of these side effects, even one or two can have a negative effect on your ability to fly safely.
Another problem with such drugs is that some people who take them often subjectively report that they feel “perfectly fine.” However, performance tests show that these same people are just as incapacitated as if they were intoxicated from alcohol. So if you feel the need to take an allergy or cold medication, consider whether you should be flying at all.
It is your responsibility as a pilot to ensure that you meet all applicable medical standards before any flight. No one expects you to be as skilled as an aviation medical examiner in determining your exact medical status, but you know your own body. You are therefore expected to be honest with yourself when it comes to assessing whether you are fit to operate an aircraft.
Using the personal readiness IM SAFE checklist prior to every flight is a good way to ensure that you are physically and mentally safe to fly:
I Illness (are you feeling any symptoms?)
M Medication (have you checked for side effects?)
S Stress (are you up-tight for any reason?)
A Alcohol/Drugs (are you clear of the effects from either?)
F Fatigue (are you well-rested?)
E Eating (are you maintaining your blood-sugar level?)
Pilot Tip:If you do use a medication with sedating effects, and your symptoms have been resolved, do not fly until at least 5 maximum dosing intervals have passed. For example, if the directions say to take a medication every 4 to 6 hours, wait at least 30 hours (5 x 6 hours) after the last dose before piloting an aircraft.