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Air travel and anaemia

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

  • Sickle cell trait does not present a particular problem at normal cruising altitude. However, patients with sickle cell anaemia should travel with supplemental oxygen and should defer travel for approximately 10 days following a sickling crisis (1)
  • patients with a haemoglobin of greater than 8 g/dl may travel without problems assuming there is no coexisting condition such as cardiovascular or respiratory disease (1)

  • if the haemoglobin is less than 7.5 g/dl, special assessment should be made and the use of supplemental oxygen should be considered (1)

Note guidance varies between sources (2,3):

  • anaemia - may require in flight oxygen. A haemoglobin below 8.5 g/dl requires special consideration before permitting to fly (2,3).
    • a haemoglobin below 7.5 g/dl is generally a contraindication to air travel (3)

  • individuals with chronic renal insufficiency or other medical condition predisposing to anaemia, which is chronic in nature, will usually tolerate a lower haemoglobin level than if the anaemia is of acute onset.

Note that these are only guidelines - each airline has its own regulations and medical standards and these must be consulted before travel


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