Medical reasons to avoid air travel

Updated July 20, 2017

Whether you have a European vacation planned or a business trip a few states over, preparing for air travel can be stressful. Add an illness or medical condition to the mix, and you could create an unpleasant travelling experience for yourself and others on the plane. While flying with a mild cold usually is just an annoyance, more serious illnesses can pose a problem while flying.


Pregnant women may fly without restrictions until it very close to the end of their pregnancies; after 36 weeks they should not fly. This is to safeguard the mother against potentially going into labour on the plane where medical help will be limited. Check specific airlines for policies. British Airways, for example, does not allow women to fly past Week 36, or Week 32 in the case of women carrying multiple babies. An airline may require a doctor's note if you intend to fly after a certain point in your pregnancy, stating your due date, that you are cleared to fly and that there are no complications with the pregnancy.


If you have recently been hospitalised for surgery, you may need to wait a day or two to several weeks to fly. How long generally depends on the seriousness of your condition and the complexity of the surgery. For example, patients who have had major chest surgery must not fly until 10 days after surgery. By contrast, laser eye surgery patients are only grounded for 24 hours after surgery, according to the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority.

Contagious Illnesses

Passengers with chickenpox should not board a plane, as the disease is easily spread. Other diseases in this category include meningitis, tuberculosis, hepatitis and malaria. If you have any of these conditions, "The New York Times" recommends a check-up to make sure your illness is no longer contagious.

Other Illnesses

The Aerospace Medical Association recommends that people with severe sinusitis, large nasal polyps or respiratory tract infections avoid air travel. If you fly, an obstructed nasal passage may prevent your body from equalising air pressure, which can lead to pain, headaches and bleeding. Passengers with pneumonia or ear infections should not fly for the same reason.

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About the Author

Based in Philadelphia, Eliza London has been a freelance writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in business and retail trade magazines, as well as on numerous websites. London holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Susquehanna University.