What is hypoxia 2018-02-12T23:23:10+00:00

What is hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a well-known flight safety hazard when flying at high altitude. A loss of cabin pressure with a decreased oxygen content in the air will cause hypoxia. Hypoxia is insidious and creeping and causes incapacitation due to lack of oxygen in the body. The reaction is individual and the symptoms differ. Learning to recognize your own personal symptoms is crucial.

Common symptoms

  • Tachycardia
  • Air hunger
  • Lightheadedness
  • Euphoria
  • Warmth and cold feeling
  • Tingling sensations
  • Vertigo
  • Visual impairment

Common observed signs

  • Rapid and deep breathing
  • Cyanosis of fingers and lips
  • Slow reaction time
  • Bad judgement

Make the most out of your time

On normal flight altitudes hypoxia quickly cause medical incapacitation with inability to perform the right actions. TUC, Time of Useful Consciousness, is the time you have to perform the right maneuvers before you get even more affected of hypoxia or unconscious. If you are performing any physical activity the time declines further as you can see in the table.

Altitude

Time of Useful Consciousness

TUC

20,000 feet / 6,000 m MSL 10 – 30 minutes
22,000 feet / 6,500 m MSL 5 – 10 minutes
25,000 feet / 7,500 m MSL 3 – 5 minutes
28,000 feet / 8,500 m MSL 2,5 – 3 minutes
30,000 feet / 9,000 m MSL 1 – 2 minutes
35,000 feet / 10,500 m MSL 30 – 60 seconds
40,000 feet / 12,000 m MSL 15 – 20 seconds
45,000 feet / 13,500 m MSL 9 – 15 seconds