Study: Medical emergencies uncommon on planes

May 29, 2013

A study finds that the chances of getting on a plane with a doctor on board are about 50/50.

According to a study, published in the "New England Journal of Medicine," sick airline passengers almost always survive their illness.

Researchers reviewed the records of nearly 12,000 in-flight medical emergencies. The most common problems were fainting, or people who may have felt faint.

Respiratory symptoms came in second, while nausea or vomiting were next in line.

Still, doctors remind travelers that medical emergencies don't happen very often on a plane.

"The incidence of having a medical emergency was 1 in 600, which sounds like a lot, but if you think about it, you'd have to fly 600 times to be on a flight that needed medical emergency," said Dr. Stephen Meldon, Cleveland Clinic.

At the same time, researchers say airline passengers who are healthcare professionals should be aware of their potential role as volunteer responders.

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