Flying with low blood pressure

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Flying with Low Blood Pressure

Discover all you need to know about flying with low blood pressure, including top tips and FAQs

What is Low Blood Pressure?

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The medical name for low blood pressure is hypotension and is when blood pressure falls much lower than what is normal for you. Low blood pressure can have all sorts of causes. Some people will naturally have low blood pressure, not caused by any underlying problems, and will be largely unaffected on a day-to-day basis. Your doctor might be able to suggest lifestyle changes that can help.

However, although unlikely to pose a serious or long-term risk, flying can be a cause for concern. If you suffer from low blood pressure it doesn’t mean you shouldn't travel by air, it just means you should be cautious. Steps can be taken to help - see our top tips below.

Do you suffer from high blood pressure? We also have a guide: Flying with High Blood Pressure

Types and causes of low blood pressure

 

Blood pressure measures the force that your blood puts on the walls of your arteries when it is being pumped around your body. Your blood pressure will change throughout the day - it is lower when you’re asleep and rises as you wake up. There is no recognised cut-off level for low blood pressure which is applicable to all and low blood pressure will usually only be considered a problem for those experiencing symptoms.

If your blood pressure becomes lower than usual, symptoms can include light-headedness, fainting, dizziness, feeling sick, clammy skin, blurred vision, feeling confused, disorientation, and heart palpitations (heightened pulse rate).

Blood pressure will naturally fluctuate. For many, there is no reason to worry. However, there may be an underlying medical condition which is causing your low blood pressure, so if you are concerned, it is important to speak to a medical professional.

The main types of low blood pressure

 

Postural (Orthostatic) Hypotension

This is low-blood pressure caused by standing up. The body doesn't respond fast enough, meaning blood stays in the legs, which causes blood pressure to fall. Postural hypotension is common and is often experienced by older people, those who have been sitting or lying down for a long duration, by those taking certain medicines, those who are dehydrated, or eating a meal (especially one high in carbs).

Neurally Mediated Hypotension

This is also called reflex syncope and is a sudden and temporary reduction in blood pressure, which can cause someone to faint. The main trigger is physical pain or extreme emotional fear, anxiety or stress.

Severe Hypotension

In the case of severe hypotension (shock), immediate medical attention will be needed. It is a life threatening condition and can happen in a number of serious medical conditions, such as a heart attack, during severe allergic reactions or major blood loss.

Tips for Flying with Low Blood Pressure

 

Stay Hydrated

There is a risk of postural hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure caused by standing) when flying. The risk is increased when passengers become dehydrated. It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when flying - the airport can be a chaotic experience and no one wants to be a nuisance to fellow passengers - but it is important to drink lots of fluids before and on the plane. Drink water and avoid alcohol, coffee and tea which are natural diuretics.

As well as drinking, it is important to keep eating as well. On long-haul flights, remember to eat small but frequent meals.

Wear Compression Socks

Compression stockings are tight-fitting socks or tights which can be worn during long flights. They help to provide extra pressure to your feet, legs and stomach, to improve the circulation of your blood and increase your blood pressure.

The risk of postural hypotensionremain can also be increased by remaining seated for a long period of time. Especially on long haul or transatlantic flights, it is easy to remain in the same position. However, it is important to get up, stretch and move about during your flight. After landing, there can often be a rush to get off the plane. However, it is very important to take your time. Do not rush. Stretch and allow your body to wake up and adjust.

Move About and Stand Slowly

The risk of postural hypotensionremain can also be increased by remaining seated for a long period of time. Especially on long haul or transatlantic flights, it is easy to remain in the same position. However, it is important to get up, stretch and move about during your flight. After landing, there can often be a rush to get off the plane. However, it is very important to take your time. Do not rush. Stretch and allow your body to wake up and adjust.

Check out our guide to wellness and staying healthy on a plane for more top tip!

Carry Medication

Your doctor might prescribe medication to help with your low blood pressure. Remember to carry your medication with you onto the plane in your carry on, in case you need it during your flight. More information on flying with medication can be found here.

Address any fears of flying

Neurally mediated hypotension, or sudden fainting, could be a risk for those with a severe fear or phobia of flying. There are steps that can be taken to try and tackle these fears.


Flying with Low Blood Pressure
FAQs

 

Is it safe to fly with low blood pressure during pregnancy?

Pregnancy reduces the body’s blood pressure. Blood pressure may fall very early during pregnancy and will usually reach its lowest point during the second trimester (weeks 13 to 28). This can cause the onset of symptoms associated with low blood pressure, including dizziness and nausea. Blood pressure will then starts to rise again, returning to normal after birth.

Pregnancy can cause postural hypotension, meaning you many suddenly but temporarily feel faint and dizzy when you get up after sitting. It is very important to get up slowly after sitting down after a long period of time, especially on a flight.

It is important to speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Can diabetes cause low blood pressure?

When standing up the body adjusts to stop the blood from staying in the lower half of your body. There are normal chances and can include an increase in your heart rate and a construction, or narrowing, of the blood in your legs.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can damage the body’s nerves (diabetic neuropathy). This can affect the nerves transmitting to your blood vessels, preventing them from getting the message to constrict when you stand. Blood can remain in your legs, reducing the amount that reaches your heart and causing light-headedness, dizziness or fainting. This is called postural hypotension.