High Altitude Simulation Testing

Breathe easier when traveling with high altitude simulation testing

For many people, the most important thing to think about before getting on a flight is whether your carry-on bag fits in the overhead bin. But if you have a chronic lung condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you may need to think about taking some extra oxygen with you.

Once airplanes reach a certain altitude, the cabin air pressure changes. This slight change of pressure also affects the oxygen concentration of the air. Healthy people don’t notice these changes, but if you need supplemental oxygen for a lung condition, it could spell trouble. Having less oxygen in the air can make it even harder for you to breathe.

Pack your bags… and your oxygen

This is where high altitude simulation testing (also called HAST, hypoxic altitude simulation testing or a hypoxic challenge test) comes into play. Done before you get on a plane or travel to a high altitude area, high altitude simulation testing checks to see how well your lungs can handle a slightly reduced oxygen concentration. Based on your test results, your doctor can tell you how much supplemental oxygen you’ll need with you to travel safely.

What should I expect from a high altitude simulation test?

During a high altitude simulation test, you’ll breathe a special gas that imitates the slightly oxygen-reduced environment of a commercial airplane cabin. Your doctor will monitor your blood oxygen saturation, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) will monitor your heart rate and rhythm.

Using the same facemask that delivers the testing gas, you’ll also be attached to an oxygen tank. By monitoring the tank, your doctor can measure how much extra oxygen you need to help your lungs breathe normally. This amount will determine how much oxygen you’ll need to take with you on your flight.

Have a chronic pulmonary disease? Plan ahead for an easier flight

If you have a chronic respiratory disease, talk to your doctor before traveling on an airplane. You might need high altitude simulation testing.