Problems Flying

Posted , 9 users are following.

First im sorry if this is in the wrong section but i dont know where else to go.

Im going to try and keep this as short as possible. I have an issue flying. I’ve flown numerous times as a child and teen without a problem. When I last took a flight around 7 years ago I had trouble breathing whilst up in the air and experienced an extreme amount of pressure down my left chest/abdominal area when descending. On both inbound and outbound flights. Coming back was far worse and I thought my inside we going to explode.

Now im not a nervous flyer at all. Its never bothered me. I don’t have that sort of mind set. I was all for jumping out of a plane to do a parachute jump at one point before all this. Love rollercoaster’s and anything like that.


Although I think im medically fit, I have been experiencing some strange upper abdominal pain, tiredness, on and off for a number of years now. This can also include periods where my breathing can become affected and I jump in my sleep. Ive been thoroughly tested! Ultra sound, xrays, CT scans to check pancreas), Echocardiogram (check heart), blood tests, ECG’s, MRI (of heart as they thought I have a Bicuspid aortic valve but it turns out I don’t). As far as the doctors are concerned im fit and well. I still become very unwell I number of times a year, but its all been put down to stress. Touch wood im feeling pretty good at the moment.


Ive been pretty scared to fly since my last problems and I therefore haven’t. Ive done everything I can to avoid it. I’m getting a little pressure from my partner to fly and again people think im just nuts. But I don’t know why I felt the way I did and it obviously wasn’t just a one off and it was pretty terrifying at the time.


I think I made things worse on the return flight as I had a 2 alcoholic drinks before I got on the plane and another whilst up in the air thinking it might help. But im guessing that could have made things worse as everything I’ve read recommends against it.


So my question is has this or does this happen to anyone else? I can’t find anything similar apart from people getting a bit of stomach pressure from the trapped air, but I know it wasn’t that. I can therefore only put this down to the air quality and oxygen levels on the plane making my feel like crap and affecting my breathing.

I know you can request to be provided oxygen on a plane but how easy is this to obtain if the doctors consider you medically fit?

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15 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi there ,not sure if this us any help to you at all ,

    I have copd ,and the last few years due to breathing problems I gave an inflight lung function test to test the oxygen levels in my blood ,consequently I had to have Supplymentary  oxygen during flight  as my levels were too lie ,unfortunately the last couple of years I failed the test and can no longer fly even with Supplymentary oxygen ,like I say not sure if this is any help to you ,but I Hooke you manage a holiday in the sun ,

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  • Posted

    I'd be amazed if what you're describing has anything whatsoever to do with COPD:  it sounds like an ordinary everyday anxiety attack to me - has that not been suggested to you by your doctor?
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    • Posted

      Thanks for your reply.

      To be honest the doctor kind of just shrugged his shoulders. I never mentioned anything to anyone until I started to have periods of feeling unwell some years later. When all the tests came back negative he just came across like it was just something else I was adding to my list of complaints.

      I guess the first thing anyone would think is that I'm a nervous flyer. And I'd assume that I'd have to be anxious about something to be anxious. For example that we are going to crash or that I'm too claustrophobic or that there were too many people about or that I can't move my legs or that I'm too high up etc. I can safely say none of those things really bother me, unless I don't know about it. As a kid and a teen (having flyed to the U.S. twice) I quite liked the whole experience. To be fair I quite like the thought of taking off thinking about it now.

      What I did notice was a kind of metallic taste in my mouth when getting onto the plane and then feeling laboured breathing whilst up in the air, with a serious amount of pressure on my left hand side insides during descent. It's not like I'm gasping for breath or I'm hyperventilating it's just really comfortable and I notice it doesn't feel right.

      I get the same kind of breathing issues if I drive high up into the mountins. Something I experienced last year whilst up in Wales. This year i went to the same place and had the same again but i think my body just got used to it after I was there for a few hours.

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  • Posted

    Hi this might be stress or it might not.  Are you a smoker or ex?  Or been in close proximity for a long time to smokers?  Have you ever had a spirometry test?  This is a breathing test that should show if you have any lung problems.   Could be worth asking your doctor for it.

    Another thing which struck me is it possible you have sleep apneoa?   Google it to see if you have any symptoms.   Good luck and let us know how you get on please.  Bev x

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    • Posted

      Hi Bev thanks for your response.

      Yes I'm a ex smoker. I smoked around 10 a day from the age of 17 until around 22. I'm now 32 so I've been given up over 10 years.

      They haven't tested my lungs. In normal conditions I'm ok. I can run around and I play golf once or twice a week which means I'm walking for 4/5 hours and never get excessively out of breath.

      The sleeping thing only happens when I'm feeling unwell and I get pain under my left rib and I generally feel very tried and loose weight. I generally get that happening 2/3 times a year and then I'm 'ok'. Sleep wise I sleep fine so I just think it's related to feeling unwell.

      I think I'm a bit of a medical mystery. I can feel so so bad for weeks/months but then be reasonably ok. I just can't begin to imagine I can feel that bad and there not be something up. Stress or depression is usually the doctors answers given the tests are clear. The keep trying to throw antidepressants at me. But I'm far from depressed. Things are good for me other than a few bouts of feeling like I'm seriously unwell.

      Work want to send me to India for a few months and I've had to refuse because of the flight. It would be nice to know I could fly ok but part of me thinks what's the point in me risking it or putting myself through it. If I know it's coming then I probably will be anxious and I'll just make it worse.

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    • Posted

      Hi Nath it's a real shame you have to turn down the opportunity to work abroad.

      As you have been a smoker I think it it is worth asking your doctor for a spirometry test to check your lung function.  It is unlikely at your age but not unknown.   I would push for a chest x-ray as well. 

      The other thing which occured to me is that you could have a long standing infection which needs ab's. 

      Obviously I am not a doctor so can't diagnose you but it would put your mind at rest to have these tests.  

      I have mild copd and can walk on the flat ok but find hills and steps are difficult.  Are you finding this?  Have you tried googling your symptoms? 

      Bev x

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    • Posted

      Yeah they are really keen for me to go and it would have benefited my career too.

      I've had a few chest X-rays - all clear

      As I say I can be active and not get any more out of breath than anyone else my kind of age. I just have some weird stuff happening to my body from time to time.

      Ive tried to google things but it's hard to know what to look for. The only thing I can put the flying down to is my body not coping too well with reduced oxygen levels.

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  • Posted


    When I was first diagnosed with COPD I was told I shouldn't fly by my GP but a consultant I asked if this was the case she told me to live to my life and enjoy my holidays, so I did. Never had any problems always took inhalers      with me if I felt I needed to use them.

    I am a nervous flier and along with many other conditions I have sleep apnea and claustophobia.

    Last christmas I had a terrible virus which prolaxed me culdn't walk more than 2 steps       because of breathing difficulties I was refered to anoth consultant who sent me for an xray which showed there was some underlying problem so was sent for a  scan.This showed I had a hole in my lung and there was fluid inside the lung wall. Apparently COPD cause the lining of the lung to becaome thin and can cause leekage. I was grounded no flying. seven months later I am still waiting for results to show the hole as repaired itself. I also have a pain, not all the time and not everyday on my left side under my bust which can be quite sharp     when it happens. I have also lost halp my lung on this side because of my COPD.

    I| dont think I have an infection which has been mentioned on here could be the cause of the pain. I mentioned it to the consultant who ignored it saying it didnt seem important.

    My breathing is good now and can walk upstair withiut too much of a problem

    althrough my other problems means I can not walk too far, so I dont.

    I would be interested to know if others have had this problem with a hole in the lung and if they have flown with it or ever been told not to fly with COPD.

    I would point out I am not on oxygen only inhalers Ventolin and Seretide 

    What I did find interesting when I was at the hospital last week now they are giving me an winter emergency back consisting of steriods and antibiotics.

    Hope you sort your problem  out soon its flying time and we are missing out on our holidays

    Take care 



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  • Posted

     I have mature onset Asthma and find when I'm flying (especially long trips) I have trouble with my breathing but no pain or anything like you are experiencing,  I'm afraid I would not be satisfied with my doctors diagnosis if I were you.  I would certainly ask  for a certificate of safety to fly from my doctors.  What happens to you on flights does not seem normal, to a  healthy or fit person!! Get a certificate of fitness and then take a trip where the flight is no longer than 2 hours.  Hope this helps.
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  • Posted

    Did you ever figure out what was going on here? I've had the same problem. I've lived on 5 continents and have flown hundreds of times but now I feel like I'm suffocating in flight. Even supplemental oxegyn doesn't help. I've been diagnosed with SVT but no doctors have been able to explain or provide a means to control SOB.

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    • Posted

      Hi Nikki

      Never found out what's going on.

      I've been on 2 flights since but not very long flights. I didn't get the severe pressure I got previously when landing thankfully.

      The flight does seem to knock me about a bit still though. Breathing isn't great and I can become quite lathargic. I really don't enjoy it. I can only put it down to poor air quality.

      I still have episodes of feeling unwell at ground level however I managed near 18 months of feeling 'ok' until recently.

      Medical mystery

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  • Posted

    I have mature onset asthma even thought I have never smoked in my life.  When I fly especially on an American flight from Belfast I feel a bit short of breath and have to use my inhaler a few times during the flight.  I also feel as thought the stuffing has been knocked out of me and the older I get the worse it seems. I think it may be to do with the air that is recycled in the cabin especially on flights of 5 hrs or over.
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  • Posted

    Since you've had CT scan and Cardiac Check and you are medically fit, this isn't really the place to post your query, anxiety attacks spring to my mind.

    If you put "anxiety and panic attacks" in the patient UK search box top right, you will find further information, indicative symptoms including support forum /groups concerning same.

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