By Patricia Green

As part of your cabin crew initial training and then your yearly recurrent check, you will learn and have to pass modules in aviation health and medicine. This gives you an advanced first aid training especially applicable to working at altitude, being onboard an aircraft and potential risks of illness/stress/fatigue when flying.

Serious incidents are rare, but you may face day to day small issues due to cuts, fear of flying, nausea, ear problems and so on. It is rare to have assistance onboard to deal with medical scenarios, so it is your responsibility as a crew member to know how to spot, diagnose and treat potential medical issues. Here we break down what aviation health and medicine is and what you should know by the end of your training.

Decompression in the cabin

Physiology of flight is a crucial element and the first thing you will learn – what flying and altitude do to the body and the conditions that may occur or be affected. Air and gas inside the body will expand as altitude increases and can cause pain in the ears, sinus, abdomen, lungs and teeth. Serious conditions such as lung disease and heart disease may require therapeutic oxygen onboard.

The use of oxygen and knowledge of oxygen systems on the aircraft is important as after a decompression for example (lowering of cabin pressure due to loss of a window/hole in fuselage) gives only minutes for passengers and crew to obtain oxygen before they may be rendered unconscious, depending on whether it is a slow or rapid decompression. Both can be fatal if not understood properly and you will learn the signs of decompression in the cabin (fog in cabin, rushing sound, cold air, fluids boiling over and objects moving around) during your emergency procedures training.

You will learn the signs of hypoxia too which would occur during decompression, which include breathing rapidly, confusion, sleepiness and euphoria – this unrecognized is fatal and can potentially affect all crew and passengers if oxygen is not received – hence the automatic dropping of oxygen masks when the cabin altitude reaches 14,000 feet.

Other conditions and medical emergencies covered during your training include:

• Asthma, shock, choking, heart attack and stroke
• Stress reactions and allergic reactions, gastro-intestinal disturbance
• Epilepsy, diabetes, febrile convulsions, poisoning
• Hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia
• Childbirth
• Burns, wounds, fractures, soft tissue injuries
• CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation), Unconsciousness
• Common problems for passengers include dehydration, hyperventilation, nose bleed and air sickness

You will also learn about the medicines available onboard, the first aid kits and how to use them and emergency equipment such as the defibrillator and oxygen bottles. Ultimately, a cabin crew member should be able to:

• Assess and observe passenger/crew condition
• Identify the illness or injury
• Give appropriate and immediate treatment
• Prevent the condition deteriorating and promote recovery until landing and receiving medical assistance on the ground.

Other topics considered during training are travel health (avoiding malaria, vaccinations and infectious diseases as well as appropriate eating), crew health (staying healthy and fit as a crew member) and sleep physiology (circadian rhythm and fatigue).

You also will learn about such things as hygiene onboard, disinfecting the aircraft, disposing of clinical waste and what to do in case of death onboard. This training session is usually covered within 5 days and you will have to perform and pass a written exam as well as a practical exam covering CPR, unconsciousness and use of the defibrillator. Your aviation health and medicine training is not just essential for the role of cabin crew but will serve you well in daily life as you never know when first aid is needed and one day you just may save a life.

About the author:

Patricia Green has been Cabin Crew for major airlines in the UK and Middle East for seven years and also an SCCM. She has also worked as a VIP Flight Attendant working for very high profile clients and world leaders on their private jets. Last year Patricia moved to flying on a freelance basis in order to concentrate on working as a freelance instructor as well as setting up as a Cabin Crew Consultant. She advises potential crew how to get their dream job and helps experienced crew move from commercial to corporate flying. In response to many requests from fellow crew and students, Patricia has written a series of E-books to help guide new crew with lots of insider advice and useful hints and tips.

For more information please visit www.cabincrewconsultant.weebly.com

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