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An inebriated passenger struggles to breathE in flight, What would you do?

A real estate developer had a very good year. To celebrate, he decided to take his team to Las Vegas for a weekend.

Mid-way through the flight, one of the team members said she was feeling nauseous and that she was having trouble breathing.  

Her coworkers didn’t know what was happening. They thought maybe she had too much to drink – or perhaps was having a panic attack.

Her breathing became more labored, and she started wheezing. At this point, the crew called the doctors at MedAire’s MedLink.

The doctor asked the flight attendant to describe the symptoms and obtain medical history. In addition, they advised the flight attendant to retrieve the onboard medical kit and use the diagnostic tools to obtain her blood pressure and heart rate.

The flight attendant told the doctor that the patient has no known medical conditions, other than a possible mild reaction to crab meat in the past. Her blood pressure was 90/50 mm/Hg and a heart rate of 110 bpm. Her breathing is now extremely labored.

Based on this information, the MedLink doctor recommended the flight attendant immediately retrieve the epinephrine auto-injector in their medical kit and administer the drug in the passenger’s thigh.

Within a few minutes the passenger’s breathing returned to normal. The passenger had never experienced a health episode of that magnitude. She didn’t know why it had happened. She said all she had was two drinks and a few canapés, including some crab.

The MedLink doctor informed the flight attendant that it is possible to be allergic to some types of shellfish without reacting to other types, and that she likely had experienced a severe allergic reaction to the crab meat.

That bite of crab sent an otherwise healthy individual into anaphylactic shock at 40,000 feet. It was the fast work of the flight crew using their medical resources available that saved her life.

This is just one example of why it’s so important to be prepared for anything that occurs in flight. A trained crew, a well-equipped on board medical kit, and trusted medical advice is an absolute best practice for those who operate aircraft.

Minutes Matter

  • 15:00 Pre-flight drinks at the office
  • 16:30 Wheels up
  • 18:00 Team member begins gasping for breath
  • 18:10 Coworkers try to calm her down and ascertain if she’s having a panic attack
  • 18:15 Breathing becomes audibly more difficult
  • 18:17 Crew contact MedAire’s MedLink
  • 18:18 MedLink doctor requests medical history, vital signs, and retrieval of onboard medical kit
  • 18:24 MedLink advises flight attendant to immediately get the epinephrine auto-injector and administer the drug in the passenger’s thigh
  • 18:30 Passengers breathing returns to normal
  • 19:45 Aircraft lands in Las Vegas


Business and General Aviation