Commercial Pilots and Health Concerns

In today’s day and age, about 8 million people use planes on any given day.   More than 3 billion people use planes to travel, but we often forget the real protagonists in these stories.  The pilots. People always ask, how was your flight? Common answers would be, “it was fine”, “service was good”, or “I slept through the whole thing”. How often have you heard someone say, “the pilot brought us safely,” or “we had great pilots”? 

That’s right, rarely if not ever.  It is only during crazy, life-threatening occasions that pilots ever really make an impact is someone’s life.  Just look at Sully and all the media that followed after his heroic landing in the Hudson.  So I have decided to dedicate some time to our pilots and their health; both men and women who get us from one place to another safely.  My father is a pilot, and his father before him so this was a personal interest as well.  Read More: Childhood Obesity in Florida

Additionally, I recently ran into a family friend; also a pilot.

He mentioned that many pilots have many health issues. I suspected pilots would suffer illnesses related to long working ours, lack of sleep, long periods of sitting down, and the chronic stress.  These would include depression, anxiety, heart disease, deep venous thrombosis (DVTs), obesity and obesity related diseases. What I found was pretty interesting.

When I first started my research I thought there would be an innumerable amount of information to find on pilots specifically.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much as I had initially expected. From what I did find, three things jumped out at me, some expected, others not so much.

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Malignant melanoma
  3. Obstructive sleep apnea

 I have heard so many things about why one of these is better than the others, why you should cook with some but not all, why cooking with one is really bad etc. The advice is endless, so instead of being another person to give you advice on this, I’d rather lay out what you should know about each of these delicious oils and then you can decide for yourself which to use.  I will also tell you which ones I use, maybe only one, maybe just two maybe all three.. maybe none? Who knows! Keep reading to find out.

                   Depression and Anxiety

A study reported that pilots who spend longer hours working per week were twice as likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Any job that requires long hours and little rest will cause severe fatigue.  This is a very important topic but depression and anxiety are far too big for me to discuss in just this one post.  From my sleep deprivation post, you will notice that depression can be a side effect as lack of sleep, so I won’t delve into this topic here, but feel free to request it and I will in a separate post.  If you are a pilot, and are experiencing:

  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Loss of interest in things you used to love doing
  • Inability concentrating
  • Moving kind of slow
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself

Please make an appointment with your doctor and speak with them.  I am not saying you are suffering from depression, just that there is a chance you might be and its best to talk to a doctor about it. Once a doc evaluates you more thoroughly they will be able to determine what the next best step for you will be.

Malignant Melanoma

A study found that there are high rates of malignant melanoma of the skin among commercial pilots.  There was what’s called a dose-response such that those exposed to longer hours of radiation showed higher rates of melanoma.

Any time there is an odd spot, with weird shape, different colors and makes you a bit worried or curious or on ease. make an appointment with a doctor (dermatologist) and make sure its nothing more than just a spot.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What surprised me most was the risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  In fact, in a study of 328 pilots almost 30% of the pilots were at risk of OSA and needed further assessments.  This kind of study was not too big, so generalizing to “all pilots everywhere” cannot be done, but it was high enough for me to write about this.

What exactly is OSA?

It’s basically inadequate sleep characterized by moments of total pause in respiration caused by obstructed airways.  This causes the person to then wake up slightly,which helps start breathing again and fall asleep again.  It leads to loss of much needed sleep both quality and quantity. People with OSA often complaint of daytime sleepiness, or feeling very tired on waking.

What exactly is OSA?

OSA also poses other health risks like cardiovascular disease.

                  But that sounds like a separate blog post all together.

The good thing is that on January 2014, The Guide to Aviation Medical Examiners reported that pilots deemed at high risk of OSA would be screened.

So as you can see, certain jobs can increase your risk of certain diseases. This includes the type of job, how to job is done, whether you are standing for long hours or sitting endlessly.  Whether or not your sleep cycle is disrupted.  All in all, it is important to always go to your annual check up. Talk about what has been bothering you. Many times the simple complaints of “I always feel tired no matter how many hours I sleep,” are actually very important. So don’t feel like your complaints aren’t serious enough to warrant a visit to your doc.

Take great pride in recognizing that there something going on with your sleep, or appetite, or well being. 

Recognizing a change is the first important step, the next is telling a doctor about it.

Last thing, these conditions are not limited to commercial pilots.  So if anyone reads this and feels as though what they’ve read sounds a bit too familiar, make an appointment with your doctor and get yourself checked out.

On that note, I hope the next time you’re on a plane you remember the value of the pilot and thank them on your way out.

 

 

 Fly easy.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hello ,

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    Regards
    Wiki

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