WPvsMW
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Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 12:48 am

On long haul flights, I have many times felt I wasn't getting enough oxygen, and had to hyperventilate until I felt normal again. I am usually in the forward cabin, so I suspect a higher incidence in the aft cabin. Is cabin O2 monitored? What does it take to obtain supplemental O2 ?

I don't mean to start of flame war about aerotoxic syndrome... the topic is "short of breath feeling", even with the vital signs of an athlete (in my case, cyclist/swimmer). Could be a tech ops question if the mods think the topic is about sensors, but to me its more about the passenger experience in civil aviation. IOW, I think there's more attention to my car's exhaust system (O2 sensor) than to my O2 level en route.
 
CATIIIevery5yrs
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:21 am

Whole plane holds the same PSI. Front or back doesn't make a difference. Amount of O2 in the air at altitude on an airliner is the same percentage wise as it is at sea level. Cabin altitudes generally don't exceed the equivalent of being on an 8,000 foot mountain. Less pressure. Same O2 amount in the air.

You could get a doctors note for an approved POC and bring that along if you're having trouble.
 
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zeke
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:23 am

The cabin is at a higher altitude than sea level, however the percentage of oxygen would be very similar to that on the ground.

I suspect you may have a condition that is predisposed to getting altitude sickness which would be worth checking out with your GP/MD.
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JHwk
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:29 am

Issue is partial pressure of oxygen, not percentage content. Your body relies on the former. You only get the equivalent of ~11% O2 in the air. If it is a problem, get a prescription for o2 for your flight.
 
WPvsMW
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:37 am

POC for me, methinks.
 
Ruscoe
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:39 am

It has to do with the partial pressure of oxygen. The percentage of oxygen (as already pointed out) remains the same but because the pressure is less there is less oxygen, and at a lower pressure to make it's way onto the Haemoglobin.
The control of respiratory rate depends upon other things as well as oxygen, such as carbon dioxide levels in your blood, and the ph (acidity or otherwise) of your blood.

This is one of the reasons that modern aircraft with higher cabin pressure, because of their carbon fibre fuselages) are supposed to make you feel better after a long trip.
Slightly off topic but there is some evidence that the higher pressure in modern carbon fibre fuselages, also reduces blood clot incidence (DVT) because it reduces pooling of blood in the calf muscles.

Ruscoe
 
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767333ER
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 7:04 am

For me being someone living in a place of relatively high elevation, I don't really notice much difference when flying other than that I get thirsty very quickly, but that just may be the dry air too. I imagine people from places such as Mexico City where the cabin altitudes are often lower than the city itself wouldn't have any problem.
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Planesmart
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:07 pm

Ruscoe wrote:
Slightly off topic but there is some evidence that the higher pressure in modern carbon fibre fuselages, also reduces blood clot incidence (DVT) because it reduces pooling of blood in the calf muscles.

Not supported by airlines operating such aircraft where aged passengers have declared DVT-related health issues. Still mandatory medical insurance and travel in in first or business class on longhaul flights.
 
Planesmart
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:10 pm

CATIIIevery5yrs wrote:
You could get a doctors note for an approved POC and bring that along if you're having trouble.

Downside, is you will never get this requirement off your travel records with the airline. For longhaul flights you will be required to have mandatory health insurance (to the satisfaction of the airline), and not travel in Y or Y+.
 
bhill
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:47 pm

As an athlete you may be aware of Epo....have your doc write you a RX...half life of 5 hours, see how it works.
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BravoOne
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sat Apr 08, 2017 11:34 pm

Having lived at a 7500+ elevation for 25+ years I am aware of any number of people arriving in Park City, UT only to wind up in emergency care from altitude sickness, some of which have died, Strongly suggest you have a serious conversation with your doctor and when possible, fly on the B787.
 
WPvsMW
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:35 am

I'll look into EPO... I don't race competitively any more.
 
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speedbored
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 9:07 am

BravoOne wrote:
when possible, fly on the B787.

Why? Contrary to popular belief, there are many modern aircraft with the same cabin altitude as the 787 - for example, the A380 had 6000ft cabin altitude long before the 787 did. Even the 747 can maintain 6000ft cabin altitude until it climbs above 38,500ft.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the air you breath while in an aircraft is far from fresh - a lot of it is recirculated. So, of far greater impact to cabin O2 and CO2 levels, will be load factor, seating density, and cabin air replenishment rate.

If you need better cabin air, I'd go for a quality airline with a large aircraft with low seating density and travel at a lower demand time and day.
 
BravoOne
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 1:15 pm

i'm sure the 380 is a great airplane, and the air in it is simply marvelous:)
 
Dalmd88
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 1:50 pm

speedbored wrote:
BravoOne wrote:
when possible, fly on the B787.


It is also worth bearing in mind that the air you breath while in an aircraft is far from fresh - a lot of it is recirculated. So, of far greater impact to cabin O2 and CO2 levels, will be load factor, seating density, and cabin air replenishment rate.

If you need better cabin air, I'd go for a quality airline with a large aircraft with low seating density and travel at a lower demand time and day.

This is a common misconception about airplane air quality. Yes, about 50% reticulation rate, but it is filtered through HEPA filters before be reintroduced to the cabin. The airflow is from above your head to your feet so the flow tends to stay in the row you are in therefore you mostly breath filtered air. The refresh rate is very high. The rate is higher than what is recommend for hospitals and way higher than the typical office building. The biggest downside is the dryness of the air.
 
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speedbored
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:20 pm

Dalmd88 wrote:
This is a common misconception about airplane air quality. Yes, about 50% reticulation rate, but it is filtered through HEPA filters

No, no misconception. I was talking about Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide levels. HEPA filters do absolutely nothing to change those.
 
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767333ER
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:22 pm

speedbored wrote:
BravoOne wrote:
when possible, fly on the B787.

Why? Contrary to popular belief, there are many modern aircraft with the same cabin altitude as the 787 - for example, the A380 had 6000ft cabin altitude long before the 787 did. Even the 747 can maintain 6000ft cabin altitude until it climbs above 38,500ft.

I once saw a graph about how the 787's cabin altitude really isn't really any different until you get over a certain altitude and, though I can't remember what it is, it wasn't that far from the service ceiling of most aircraft. In the lower 30s they are mostly the same, but it's only up in the 40s where there is much difference iirc. At any rate i think the difference is usually within about 1000'. I think most of the difference people feel is in their head as they have been told that the air is significantly denser so they convince themselves that they can tell that it is. I have, in the past, gone from YYC to DEN which is about 2000' or more difference in elevation and unless I would walk in the airport and more around a lot, I wouldn't feel any different whatsoever. People going from being at sealevel and being used to it to a cabin at cruise probably can't tell the difference between a cabin altitude of 5000' or 6000' beucase both are so bad compared to what they are used to.

And even if someone else did it first, many fall for the hype and think because it's a 787 it's better.
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Flow2706
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:42 pm

Cabin pressure usually reaches 8000ft only at the service ceiling - if you are flying lower, cabin altitude will be lower. During climb the cabin altitude is kept as low as possible and differential pressure (between the outside atmosphere and the cabin) is increased to the maximum relatively early (on the A320 the maximum differential pressure the cabin pressure control system uses is 8.0/8.1, even though the aircraft is certified for 8.6 - this is typically reached when passing through around FL300-310 during the climb). If an A320 is cruising at FL350 or 360 (service ceiling is FL390) the cabin altitude will be only around 7000ft (at FL390 it would be 8000ft). Probably this is also valid for the 787 (I'm not rated on that type, maybe somebody rated has some more insight), so cabin altitudes at typical cruise levels would be even lower (i.e. cabin pressure higher) than the 6000ft cabin altitude advertised.
 
PhilBy
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:10 am

Is the 'short of breath feeling' a case of the world starting to spin/dizzyness or feeling a need to breathe more?

The body has no system to tell you that there is a lack of oxygen. Generally a need to breathe is linked to levels of CO2 in the blood stream. Hyperventilating reduces the level of CO2 in the blood. Divers are strongly advised not to hyperventilate as it then becomes possible that they pass-out due to lack of oxygen before the increasing CO2 level tells the body that they need to breath.
 
WPvsMW
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:16 pm

... feeling of needing to breathe more. No dizzyness. Hyperventilating solves the problem in about 4 deep breaths.
 
N353SK
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:34 am

The percentage of oxygen in the air of an aircraft cabin is the same as on the ground, however as others have said the cabin pressurization will be equal to an altitude as high as 8,000 feet in flight (which means there will be less oxygen in your bloodstream). Have you had issues at altitude in the past? If you fly regularly it might be a good idea to bring a pulse oximeter on your next trip to see if it is really a blood oxygen concentration issue or something else before going the POC route.
 
PhilBy
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:33 am

If it's feeling of needing to breathe with no dizziness the cause is almost certainly too high a level of CO2 in the blood.
Normally when people breathe they do not focus much on breathing out and therefore some air remains in the lungs. Taking the trouble to exhale fully removes the maximum amount of CO2 from the lungs and prevents this feeling of needing to breathe.

Generally a male has a 4l useable lung capacity. At rest we normally only inhale/exhale about 0.5 l, leaving 2l of used air in the lungs and trachea.
 
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Balerit
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Re: Low oxygen in cabin air

Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:32 am

speedbored wrote:
Dalmd88 wrote:
This is a common misconception about airplane air quality. Yes, about 50% reticulation rate, but it is filtered through HEPA filters

No, no misconception. I was talking about Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide levels. HEPA filters do absolutely nothing to change those.


Don't forget that the cabin air exits through the outflow valves and the complete cabin air will be replaced, can't remember the time it takes-maybe every 10minutes. Local zone air is stimulated by the recirc fans.
Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (retired).

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