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‘Doc, can I fly to Australia?’ A case report and review of delirium following long-haul flight

  • Thomas McCabe (a1)
Summary

Air travel is now a common feature of most of our elderly population's lives. There is little by way of warnings, rules or recommendations for our patients with psychiatric diagnoses, in particular dementia, who intend to travel by plane, in contrast to other specialties. In this article I highlight an adverse outcome of long-haul air travel as a result of delirium and resulting accelerated decline in overall cognitive function. I review literature related to the topic and suggest ways to minimise precipitating factors for stressors prior to and during flights. This article suggests that more thought should be given to the title question.

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Copyright
This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence to Thomas McCabe (thomas.mccabe@nhs.net)
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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1 Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Figure 4: Age structure of UK-resident passengers at Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester airports, 1998. In Statistical Information on Air Passenger Numbers and Characteristics: p. 6. POST, 2000 (http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/e3.pdf).
2 CAA Passenger Survey Report 2014. A survey of passengers at Birmingham, Doncaster, East Midlands, Gatwick, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London City, Luton, Manchester and Stansted Airports. Table 21.
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7 Prince, M, Knapp, M, Guerchet, M, McCrone, P, Prina, M, Comas-Herrera, A, et al. Dementia UK Update, Second Edition, November 2014: 10.
8 Williams, M. Ex-Scotland rugby star Sean Lineen father found after going missing from airport. Herald Scotland, n.d. Available at: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/13645373.Ex_Scotland_rugby_star_Sean_Lineen_father_found_after_going_missing_from_airport/ (accessed 18 April 2016).
9 Carrega-Woodby, C. Family suing American Airlines for losing dad with Alzheimer's at LaGuardia, leaving him to wander 3 days in frigid temperatures. New York Daily News 2015; 23 August. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-fam-aa-lost-dad-alzheimer-lga-article-1.2334453 (accessed 18 April 2016).
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11 Kelly, L, Caplan, G. Dementia and long haul travel. Age Ageing 2009; 28: 762.
12 Low, JA, Chan, DKY. Air travel in the older person. Age Ageing 2002; 31: 1722.
13 Civil Aviation Authority. Information for Health Professionals on assessing fitness to fly. CAA, 2015. (https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Before-you-fly/Am-I-fit-to-fly/Guidance-for-health-professionals/Psychiatric-conditions/)
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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‘Doc, can I fly to Australia?’ A case report and review of delirium following long-haul flight

  • Thomas McCabe (a1)
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