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Flight Emergencies - Care in the Sky

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Medical Facilities on Board

First-aid Kit: Most airlines carry an emergency and basic first-aid kit on board. These kits can be opened only under a doctor’s orders, present either on the plane or through radio contact on ground.

A stethoscope, blood pressure monitoring device, syringes, needles, a CPR mask, breathing tubes, a self-inflating manual resuscitation device, gauze, bandages and few medicines are the items within the kits.

According to a ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S., from May 2004, all commercial US aircraft with a seating capacity of 30 or more have to carry on board enhanced medical kits. The medical kit should have more supplies including automated external defibrillators, with cabin crew trained to handle them.

Crew training: The cabin crews of most airlines are also trained to handle in -flight medical emergencies. They undergo training in basic first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and handling the automated external defibrillator (AED). (The latter is a portable, computerized device that treats sudden cardiac arrest or heart rhythm abnormalities that may cause inadequate blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.) Available data shows that cabin crew manages about three quarters of in-flight medical emergencies.

In rare cases, which amounts to about one in 5,000 departures, the captain of the airplane may decide to make an unscheduled landing during a life-threatening medical emergency. On September 12,2004, an Indian Airlines flight from Delhi to Bangalore made an emergency landing because a baby on board developed serious breathing problems.

Special Meals: Some international airlines comply with requests for special or medical meals. You can request for a diabetic, bland, gluten-free, high fibre, low calorie or any other type of meal. However, such a request has to be placed in advance to the airlines.

Indemnity: Many international airlines offer indemnity to health care workers flying in their aircraft; this protects the worker against any legal liability that may arise from attending to an in-flight medical emergency.

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