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Flying with a cold.

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Active member
Dec 5, 2001

Just wondering how long after I get over my cold is it ok to go back to work.

While flying freight in an unpressurized plane, I was in pain descending a day or so after I was over it.

I just have nightmares about rapid decompression really screwing me up at this point.

I'm still quite stuffy in the head.

Just wondering if anyone has anything to offer or articles from the FAA?


DO328 FO
Don't rely on FAA info. Talk to your Dr. Your personal Dr. should be different from your FAA MD.
I can't give you any info on how long you are contagious, but I have had success clearing my head with generic versions of Sudafed and Dayquil, both legal to use while flying.

Nasal spray can be carried to be used in an emergency only (not necessarily a flight emergency, but a congestion emergency).

More info is linked here.
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Make sure you're extremely SURE you're over that cold before you go back to work...

My test is to blow my nose in a normal fashion (which for me is pretty hard!) Provided I have NO discomfort and ABSOLUTLY no crackling sounds (i.e. residual fluid in your inner ear) I consider myself good to fly.

Even if you feel fine otherwise...and you're just not sure about your ears...CALL IN SICK! I'd rather be short a few sick days than out of work for a prolonged recovery from inner ear damage...

I speak from experience when it comes to ear pain and damage...don't let those precious "hours" affect your judgement!!

Best of luck and get well soon!
You got some good advice from treetop flyer. Don't blow your medical and risk your career.

Since you fly the DoJet, you probably belong to ALPA. Spend a nickel and call Aeromedical. Speak to any one of the docs and get the correct medical advice. I'ts free!

After you get the info, follow it.

PS. The chance of rapid decompression is remote. It's the every day stuff that will get you. Make the phone call.
Flying with a URI

I agree with the above. I remember that I was sick with an upper respiratory and stayed out of work for three days. I was scheduled to fly that Saturday and I felt fine. Very bad decision. Although I wasn't feeling my usual symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion, it was there. We flew and I remember that during steep turns I felt excruciating pain in my sinuses. I learned a lot from that experience.

Don't discuss your health with your AME. He/she is not looking out for your best interests. Discuss it only with your regular doctor. AOPA offers good, confidential medical counseling.
Other than the health hazards to your ear, also consider your fellow crewmembers. I flew with a couple of sick FOs and got knocked off the line when I caught what they had because they were afraid to call in sick.

After talking it over with a couple friends at my company AND the great advice of fellow pilots on this board (that's what this board is all about) I have decided to not fly at least the first day of my next trip as I am still a bit stuffy.

I have enough sick time, and hey, that's what it's for anyway.

Thanks again,

A blown ear drum just isn't worth it. I fly mostly unpressurized airplanes as well (Twin Otters). I always carry a bottle of Afrin in the flight bag in case the 'crud' sneeks up on a leg. It can make the descent bearable.
I don't know where FL000 came up with the advice that sudafed and dayquill are acceptable for flight operations, or that nasal sprays are acceptable, but it's bad advice. Not only could it place your certificate in jeopardy, but it could get you killed.

When considering medications in relation to your flying, the effect of the medication is only part of the picture. The underlying condition for which you're taking the medication is a very important part of the picture. Making the apparent symptoms go away may make you feel good, but it doesn't eliminate what is going on psyiologically.

If you clear your sinus with a medication, it feels cleared, but it isn't, really. If you have an infection, feeling better doesn't make it go away. The potential for a sinus implosion isn't any less, nor is the risk of total incapacitation that will almost certainly accompany it.

The FAA does not approve medications. Each must be dealt with on an individual basis, according to the airman and his or her conditions.

Several years ago, a very nasty carier landing accident was attributed to one pilot's illicit use of nasal spray. Don't depend on plan on it's use if you're already congested and need to clear it quickly. It may make you feel better for a moment (unlikely in the event of a pressure issue on descent), but it will not open or clear your sinus.

If any doubt exists at all, as others here have stated, do not fly. The CFR prohibits you from flying with a known medical deficiency. It says nothing about being able to fly so long as an over the counter medication says it doesn't cause drowsiness. Weather the medication does or does not affect you is beside the point, and ignore any advice to the contrary. It could get you killed.

There is no flight which must be made.

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