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We all get sick, suffer from allergies and sometimes chronic issues. It is not safe to fly while on some medicines or in some cases, for some time after taking the medicine.

How do I know what I can take and still fly? What resources are out there to check if a specific medicine is compatible with flying (AOPA, FAA, etc)? Is there a comprehensive list of what I can and cannot take?

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AOPA has the best database that I know of, but you have to be a member to view it. They have some free information on their Medications page though.

There they talk about FAA Policy, and it starts with:

The Federal Aviation Regulations include no specific references to medication usage. FAR 61.53 prohibits acting as pilot-in-command or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person:

  • Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirement for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation, or:

  • Is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation. Further, FAR 91.17 prohibits the use of "any drug that affects the persons faculties in any way contrary to safety."

AMAS (Aviation Medicine Advisory Service) also has a list (which is free) but I don't think that it is organized as well. They are recommended by ALPA and NBAA though.

The most important thing though, of course, is to self evaluate and make sure that you don't fly if you are having any adverse reactions from the medication, or the underlying condition that you are taking the medicine for.

Any list that you consult has to be used only as a guide though, and not a carte-blanche approval. Individual people can have reactions even to medications that are considered "safe" and "allowed" by the FAA, and this is why they don't list specific medications that they allow. The FAA has a brochure called Medications and Flying, and one part of it has a few things to consider before taking any medication:

First, consider the underlying condition that you are treating. What will be the consequences if the medication doesn’t work or if it wears off before the flight is over? A good general rule to follow is not to fly if you must depend on the medication to keep the flight safe. In other words, if the untreated condition is one that would prevent safe flying, then you shouldn’t fly until the condition improves — whether you take the medication or not.

Second, you must consider your reaction to the medication. There are two broad categories of medication reactions. One is a unique reaction based on an individual’s biological make-up. Most people don’t have such reactions but anyone can, given the right medication. Because of this, you should NEVER fly after taking any medication that you have not taken before. It is not until after you have taken the medication that you will find out whether you have this uncommon and unexpected reaction to the medication.

Third, consider the potential for adverse reactions, or side effects — unwanted reactions to medications. This type of reaction is quite common, and the manufacturer of the medication lists these on the label. You MUST carefully read all labeling. If you don’t have access to the label, then don’t fly while using the medication.

Look for such key words as lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, or visual disturbance. If these side effects are listed or if the label contains any warning about operating motor vehicles or machinery, then you should not fly while using the medication.

Side effects can occur at any time, so even if you’ve taken the same medication in the past without experiencing side effects, they could still occur the next time. For this reason, you must never fly after taking a medication with any of the above-noted side effects.

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    $\begingroup$ Hehe - I'm imagining a pilot saying, "it says not to operate heavy machinery, but I'm just operating a glider!" $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Mar 17 '15 at 1:54
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Call an AME. They'll answer your questions more definitively and then you'll have an official opinion. AOPA's database is good but it is not official and probably wouldn't hold up as a defense if you somehow got in trouble for using some medication that you thought was okay.

Additionally, an AME can refer you to alternative medications that might be approved. For example, Cetirizine (Zyrtec etc.) is banned because it causes drowsiness and blurred vision, but Loratadine (Claritin etc.) is acceptable. Perfectly viable substitute for some people with allergies (not me, unfortunately) but you'd never know it looking at AOPA's list (although I think AMAS talks about alternatives).

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  • $\begingroup$ Great point about the AME. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jan 27 '14 at 4:27
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Try this link: You type the medicine name and get an answer. https://www.aviationmedicine.com/medication-database/

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    $\begingroup$ Usually, including the essential info from the linked article is a good policy, but in this case, he is pointing out an on-line resource to look up any particular drug someone may have a question about. It's pretty hard to "summarize" a database like that in a post. Voted to NOT delete, as resources like this can be valuable, even as "only" a link. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 18 '16 at 15:16
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Calling an AME is the official word. You can get a pretty good idea of what he's likely to tell you from this page at LeftSeat.com -- so if that page says that X isn't approved but Y typically is, that's probably a good starting point for where to start the discussion with a "real" doctor if you're about to be given a prescription. (Not knocking AME's, but many pilots have the doctor they see when they're sick, separate from their AME.)

That said, nothing on the internet carries as much weight as what your AME tells you, so consider this advice worth what you paid for it!

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