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Ibuprofen good for high altitude flying?

It helps against altitude sickness, so why would it not be beneficial when flying a few hours at 12,500 feet?

Ibuprofen decreases likelihood of altitude sickness, researchers find

Last Edited by Lucius at 12 Jun 05:38

At least on French pill packages, they write that you shouldn’t operate machinery after taking Ibuprofen. Probably that is just CYA because in clinical studies someone said they felt dizzy after taking 10g of it ;).

Wikipedia says about Altitude Sickness:

Symptoms often manifest themselves six to ten hours after ascent…. Exertion aggravates the symptoms.

My experience is anecdotal but reasonably extensive. I have flown for many years with many passengers, including my wife, many times at FL130 without O2 for, typically, 2-3 hour flights. None has shown any symptoms or difficulty.

I have been to Cusco (11,200’) with my wife, where I was absolutely fine walking around the hilly city (getting many propositions for more strenuous activities, but that is another story), but she began to show some mild symptoms after a few hours and had to lie down. She acclimatised in about 24 hours.

So, sitting still for 3 hours at 130 is fine for someone who gets unwell moving around for several hours at 112.

In my experience, the length of time that you are likely to be at 125 is unlikely to cause symptoms.

But your results may vary, so be very circumspect and use a pulse oximeter, which is cheap and widely available. Keep your hands warm before use, as vasoconstriction due to the cold can cause wildly inaccurate readings.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Maybe because it can cause the very same symptoms as side effects ?

And while it is freely available in the US, it is a prescription medication in Europe and, in higher doses, only administered together with something protecting your stomach…

So, given that most people do not respond too dramatically to limited exposure above 10k, why would you increase the risks by taking something that hasnt been tested to adress the actual issue, i.e. reduction of mental capacity from hypoxia ?

EDM_, Germany

Everyone reacts differently to the O2 deprivation at high altitudes. A couple of years ago I did an FAA high-altitude course. This consisted of entering an O2 depletion chamber and doing some mental exercises for about 5 minutes. The O2 content in the chamber was set to the equivalent of 26.000ft (note: this was not a barymetric, but a depletion chamber). The interesting thing was how different the reactions of the participants were. We were about 30 people, ranging in age from early 20s to mid 70s. One of the worst was a mid-20s CFI, who essentially keeled over after about 30 secs. The best was a guy in his 70s. One of the stated goals of the course was to show you how YOU would react to lack of O2. That was certainly achieved. Be careful up there, YMMV!

The summary posted there doesn’t really tell you that much.

Mountain sickness can range from mild headaches to full blown pulmonary and cerebral oedema which is life threatening. They’ve suggested that it stops headaches (didn’t reach statistical significance), but they haven’t shown (and probably won’t get permission to investigate) whether that extrapolates to preventing the more severe complications.

When I think of hypoxia in light aircraft I think of changes in decision-making ability due to low O2 saturations or at extreme altitudes, loss of consciousness. I have no doubt it’s possible to get climber’s mountain sickness in aircraft, and people often complain of fatigue which may be a related issue. However I don’t think this study is particularly relevant to flying. The subjects are doing much more exercise and the time of exposure to high altitude conditions is much longer.

The one question I got wrong in my Human Factors exam was the one about whether a pilot may take paracetamol before flying, without consulting with an AME. The answer was ‘no’. So if you do wish to take Ibuprofen before flying, best speak with one of them.


I imagine that reducing some of the symptoms such as nausea does not mean that your also reduce how your mental capacity is affected.

I’ve certainly see myself being affected in different ways. While I was able to do a little 50m sprint at the top of Kilimanjaro (~FL190), and a 3h45 flight mostly at FL145 without any apparent symptoms (nausea / mental capacity), I’ve certainly felt mental capacity decrease on a shorter flight at FL120. Probably depends on a variety of conditions, so I personally take it as past “performance” not a reliable indicator.

Peter, from what I’ve been told, it’s pressure and not density altitude that counts for how humans are affected.

172driver wrote:

One of the worst was a mid-20s CFI, who essentially keeled over after about 30 secs. The best was a guy in his 70s.

I read during prep for a trekking in Nepal that in the mid 20s to mid 30s the body is „fine tuned“ the most and will react more intense to changes such as high alt.

Last Edited by Snoopy at 12 Jun 19:57
has a Beagle...
LOWG Graz Austria

Why not take oxygen instead? in liquid form preferably (referred as “no more than salty water”)

One may also need pressure flying suits for comfort above 12000ft (not those referred as “plenty of pockets” )

ESSEX, United Kingdom

I have a theory about the differences between people and their bodies reactions to altitude.

I went climbing in Karakorum a couple of years ago up to 7500m and it was “ok” (very relative term in that kind of altitude with full pack for tents and food) for me. Others were throwing up all night in the highest campside and got very very slow on the hightest climbs.

I belive it had something to do with the fact that I have been flying up to FL 125 without oxygen (above that I use oxygen most of the time and now I use it in gliders starting from 10k ft because the decisions are just better and after a full day in the glider I am just less fatigued when using oxygen) for many hours at a time (up to 10 or 12) in gliders all my life and when I did my first night in a tent at 4000m I slept perfectly fine. Everybody reacts differently to extended periods of time in high altitude, but most people get better with time. The body kind of remembers how to do it.
Last Edited by ASW22 at 12 Jun 20:42
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