Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital announced that its Pulmonology Centre will offer a new service that will allow parents of children with respiratory related issues to ensure that it would be safe for their children to travel by air. A large number of young patients with underlying pulmonary disease travel in airplanes putting them at risk for significant cardiopulmonary effects of induced hypoxia (low blood oxygen). In addition, a serious medical deterioration may in some cases be very challenging to deal with during flights.
The Hypoxic Challenge Test (HCT) and High Altitude Simulation Test (HAST), or ‘Fitness to Fly assessment’, provided by Al Jalila Children’s is the only such test in the region, and it provides a simple way to identify those patients at risk by simulating conditions encountered at high altitude and can assess the need of oxygen in the flight and can also help titrate the amount of oxygen the child requires during the flight.
Dr. Mohamed Al Awadhi, COO at Al Jalila Children’s said: “introducing the new ‘Fit to Fly’ service comes in line with our endeavor to elevate that standards of paeadiatric healthcare across the region. This test is quite new in this part of the world, yet it is highly necessary to ensure the safety of children with chronic respiratory conditions when flying by air.”
“Along with consistent and solid conventional world class paediatric healthcare, we will always strive to bring the latest technologies and medical equipment to be on par with global best practices, thus ensuring that our children get the best chance of having a healthy and happy childhood.”
The “Fitness to Fly” assessment is a safe procedure in which clinicians can determine how well a child’s body can adapt to the change in conditions while flying, and whether any interventions are required. This is mostly required for Premature babies kept on oxygen in NICU, children with chronic respiratory conditions that required oxygen in the past six months, Cystic Fibrosis and Muscular weakness among other illnesses.
During commercial flights, an aircraft can reach an altitude of up to 30,000 feet, where the air cabin becomes pressurized similar to 5000 and 8000 feet. As a result of these changes in pressure and altitude, oxygen levels in an aircraft fall lower than that at sea-level (from 21% oxygen in room air to 13-15% in commercial aircrafts or high altitudes). Oxygen levels in the blood will also decrease slightly.
In healthy individuals the body will usually compensate to overcome these changes, however in some individuals with known respiratory and cardiovascular conditions this can sometimes cause complications for travelling. In order to ensure that it is safe for a child to fly, Al Jalila Childen’s carries out an assessment that stimulates the conditions inside an aircraft to determine if they are “fit-to-fly” and whether infants will require supplemental oxygen during a flight.
Al Jalila Children’s serves children and adolescents up to the age of eighteen and is the first and only dedicated children’s hospital in the United Arab Emirates. Inaugurated on November 1, 2016, Al Jalila Children’s is an ultramodern hospital with world-class teams of highly qualified healthcare experts that employs SMART technology and designed to enhance patient care and outcomes. The hospital also aims to foster clinical innovations, astute learning and development programmes, and host cutting-edge research facilities. It is a 200-bed facility in a child and family friendly environment. Find out more at www.aljalilachildrens.ae.