by Dr. Penny Giovanetti, FAA Aerospace Medical Specialties Division Manager
Q1. When I was a child I was prescribed medications for ADHD (Ritalin or Adderall) but I haven’t had a prescription for years. Can I still get a medical certificate?
A1. Yes, it is still possible to get a medical certificate. Your AME will have to defer your exam, and we will ask for past medical records about your diagnosis of ADHD and treatment. Based on those records, we may require some current neuropsychological testing as well.
Q2. I was treated for a fever at the hospital when I was a young child (5 or 6 years old). The issue was resolved at the time. Now it’s 30 years later, do I need to include that in my medical history for my medical certificate?
A2. Yes. The medical history on the MedXPress form clearly states, “Have you ever in your life … .” The AME should be able to write a brief comment in Block 60, and then you can use the “PRNC” (previously reported, no change) option on the form.
Q3. I’ve had issues with depression at times in my life. It’s never gotten so bad that I felt it was a danger but what options would I have if I wanted to seek treatment and wanted to continue flying at least as a private pilot?
A3. We currently have over 350 pilots of all classes flying while in treatment with certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications for depression. We have specific exclusions for special issuance consideration. If we grant a special issuance, we require regular follow-up visits with your AME. You should contact a HIMS (Human Intervention Motivation Study) qualified AME (www.faa.gov/pilots/amelocator) for details.
Q4. Are there any medications for seasonal allergies that are not disqualifying?
A4. Yes, you can use the non-sedating antihistamines loratadine, desloratadine, and fexofenadine while flying if, after an adequate initial trial period, your symptoms are under control, and you have no adverse side effects. Beware the risk of blockage to ears and sinuses.
Q5. How do I know how long I should wait to resume flying after I take a medication? Is there a standard waiting period?
A5. There is no standard waiting period. A rule of thumb is to wait 5 dosing intervals. For example, if you take the medication every 4-6 hours, wait 30 hours (6 hours x 5 intervals) after the last dose. To be on the safe side, consult your AME. Medications may act differently in different people, and often the safety concern is not so much the medication itself, but the underlying condition for which you are taking the medication.
Send your questions to SafetyBriefing@faa.gov. We’ll forward them to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, without your name, and publish the answer in an upcoming issue.
Penny Giovanetti, D.O., received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a master’s in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Iowa, and a doctorate from Des Moines University. She completed a 27-year career as an Air Force flight surgeon. She is board certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. She is also a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a private pilot.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2016 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.