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Physiologic Stressors of Air Transport

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

1. Vibration is the worst stressor – physical effects on crew and patient plus affects ECG and increases ETCO2. Increase padding to decrease vibration.

2. Gravitational forces cause pooling of blood.

3. Noise is the stressor that interferes most with patient physical assessment.

4. Vision impairment – night vision affected as early as 5000 feet MSL so avoid inside light and use supplemental oxygen.

5. Temperature drops by 2 degrees Celsius for every 1000 feet increase in altitude, along with decreased humidity.

6. Marked mental confusion occurs at the critical stage of hypoxia, between 20,000 to 30,000 feet.

7. Fuel vapors can cause altered mental status, nausea, and eye irritation.

8. Flicker vertigo (sunlight through wind milling propeller) may cause seizures so cover patient’s eyes to decrease the risk.

9. Patients with COPD may experience hypoxic hypoxia during air transport.

10. Patients with sickle cell anemia may experience hypemic hypoxia during air transport.

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