Hypoxia is the condition that occurs when the body does not obtain substantial oxygen. Lack of oxygen is one of the most dangerous conditions at high altitudes, especially when coupled with inadequate pressure and/or temperatures. When a pilot inhales air at high altitudes, there is not enough pressure to force sufficient amounts of oxygen to the lungs, causing the function of various organs, including the brain, to be impaired.
Hypoxia is difficult to detect and, unfortunately, the nature of hypoxia makes the pilot the poorest judge of when it occurs. The first symptoms of oxygen deficiency resemble mild intoxication from alcohol. Most humans are completely unaware of this state of affairs and ‘believe’ they are fully conscious, when in actual fact they are in a comatose state.
The following suggestions can prevent hypoxia from getting a foot in your door:
Besides the aforementioned recommendations, if you want to be a modern precautionary pilot you can carry a simple electronic instrument called pulse oximeter which clips on your fingertip, measures the oxygen saturation of the blood and instantly displays it on a tiny digital screen. It works as a “hypoxia tester” and could become your inseparable ally.