A Jet Airways aircraft Boeing 737, travelling from Mumbai to Jaipur with 166 passengers on board, had to return to the airport as the crew forgot to turn on the cabin pressurisation system which maintains air pressure inside an aircraft to a comfortable level.
The mistake led to several passengers suffering from nosebleed, bleeding from ear and severe headache. Some of the passengers were even admitted to the hospital with these complaints.
What does Air Pressure mean?
Air pressure, also known as Barometric pressure or atmospheric pressure, is the weight of the atmosphere pressing down on earth. It is measured by a barometer in units called millibars. The standard or average atmospheric pressure at sea level on the earth is 1013.25 millibars per square inch, which is about 14.7 pounds.
What are the causes of Air Pressure?
Air pressure is caused due to air molecules present in the atmosphere. The higher the altitude, the lower is the air pressure, which makes it tough for humans to survive without proper equipment.
The aircrafts use cabin pressure by pumping in ‘bleed air’ to maintain barometric pressure. This pressurisation becomes highly necessary when the aircraft touches altitude above 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) from sea level.
What health issues do low Air Pressure cause?
Low air pressure can cause mild as well as death threatening conditions which include:
Blood pressure: As the air pressure reduces, the blood pressure also starts falling. It can be observed if you are feeling dizziness or a blurred vision.
Severe headache: Change in barometric pressure can lead to severe headache or migraines by creating a pressure difference between the atmosphere and air-filled sinuses.
Blood sugar: Change in air pressure bring cold fronts , which is not good for a diabetic person.
Hypoxia: The lower oxygen pressure reduces the oxygen tension in the lungs, subsequently in the brain. This can lead to dimmed vision, sluggish thinking, loss of consciousness and eventually death.
Altitude sickness: In the most common response to hypoxia, the human body starts hyperventilation. It does help in partially restoring oxygen in the blood but it also leads to carbon dioxide to out-gas which increases the blood pH level. In this condition, people may suffer fatigue, nausea, headache, sleeplessness and even pulmonary oedema.
Barotrauma: As the aircraft climbs or descends, passengers may face discomfort or acute pain as gases trapped inside their bodies try to expand. The most common problems faced due to this situation include air trapped in the middle ear or paranasal sinuses by a blocked Eustachian tube. It can also cause pain in gastrointestinal tract or even the teeth.
What emergency steps should be taken in situation of low air pressure?
The effects of low air pressure may vary from person to person. Some people do not feel any health problems even while being at an altitude as high as 8,000 feet while some would start feeling restless from 5,000 feet onwards.
There may be many precautions including carrying an oxygen cylinder always while travelling to the high altitude places. In aircrafts, oxygen masks are provided to each passenger but if you are planning to go on a trek, you must know some important aspects of surviving at high altitude places. Have a look:
Emergency tips to keep yourself safe at high altitude places:
These things can help you keep your mind and body fit even at the reasonably high altitude places.