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Region’s first ‘fit-to-fly" medical test launched

Test allows children with lung diseases to ensure it is safe for them to travel by air

Gulf News

Dubai: Parents of children with respiratory related issues can now check if it is safe for their children to travel by air through a new test offered by Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital.

The hospital announced that its Pulmonology Centre will offer the Hypoxic Challenge Test (HCT) and High Altitude Simulation Test (HAST), the only such test in the region, to enhance safety for children with lung diseases when travelling by air.

A large number of young patients with underlying pulmonary disease travel by air which put 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 test provides a simple way to identify those patients at risk by simulating conditions encountered at high altitude.

It can also assess the need of oxygen in the flight and can also help titrate the amount of oxygen the child requires during the flight.

“Introducing the new ‘fit to fly’ service comes in line with our endeavour to elevate that standards of paediatric health care across the region,” said Dr Mohammad Al Awadhi, COO at Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital. “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.”

The test 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 pressurised similar to 5,000 and 8,000 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 per cent oxygen in room air to 13-15 per cent in commercial aircraft 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.

“Along with consistent and solid conventional world class paediatric health care, 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,” said Al Awadhi.

Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital serves children and adolescents up to the age of eighteen and is the first and only dedicated children’s hospital in the UAE.

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