With cold and flu season underway, the FAA has published its annual list of acceptable and unacceptable over-the-counter (OTC) medications for pilots who want to fly through the pain. The first recommendation is for sick pilots to take their self-certification responsibilities to heart and to wait until they’re feeling better. It’s more complicated than that, however. If, during their illness, pilots have taken any of dozens of OTC product they may have to wait up to 60 hours before flying depending on the recommended frequency for taking the drugs. Short duration doses require a 30-hour lag time while the much-hyped 12-hour medications require the 60-hour waiting period.
The agency has published a list of the most common OTC drugs under their brand names and drug types and split them into “Go” and “No-Go” lists. In general, any medication that has a sedative effect is on the bad list and that encompasses most of the popular cold and flu remedies. However, brand names are not an accurate guide because different types of products under the same brand can contain different drugs. Cold remedies are the most common types of drug impairment found in crash investigations and the FAA says anyone in doubt about the safety of their elixir of choice should contact their AME. “If you choose to fly on medication, be certain that it will not impair safety,” the agency said. “Do not simply hope for the best.”