Fatigue, Flying and OTC Medications


Most over the counter (OTC) medications come with a warning about operating vehicles. Most of us at some point use OTC medications to help relieve the symptoms of allergies and the common cold without much regard to all those warning labels. 

Some years ago, “I knew a guy” who shared the fact that during a cross country he actually fell asleep returning from an air show. Shocked was I, that anyone could fall asleep while hand flying a less than stable aircraft. 

Shocked that is, until someone else shared a story of how they mixed a touch of stress, a pinch of fatigue, a spot of illness and an OTC allergy medication. It’s a bit like those rumble strips on the shoulder of the road.  If you’re lucky, you wake up fast, real fast. 

When we fly cross country, we go to altitude where there is less oxygen. At 10,000 feet, you may experience low grade hypoxia or altitude sickness. This increases the likelihood of dozing off.  Add in all those other factors and you have a recipe for disaster. 

Take heed when you self-medicate. Fatigue by itself is a cause for concern. Illness, medication and cross country flying don’t mix.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.