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Here’s how NASA treats astronauts who get sick in space

Topic: Here’s how NASA treats astronauts who get sick in space

Being around 200 miles from Earth means astronauts can’t just pop into the doctor’s office when they’re feeling ill.

When you’re sick, you head to your doctor’s office, medical center, or emergency room, depending on the severity of your injury.

But what happens when you’re around 200 miles from Earth while working on a long-standing mission with NASA? It’s not like you have the option for a house call or the ability to schedule an appointment for that strange cough you’ve had for a few days.

Instead, you rely on training, your crew, medical supplies and medicines available, manuals and the expertise of your mission’s flight surgeon.

That’s the physician with specialized training in aerospace medicine that is assigned to each crew heading into space.

Their role is multi-faceted and starts back here on Earth while they oversee the health care and medical training for crew members preparing to launch. They’ll also take care of any medical issues that arise during, or after spaceflight, according to NASA.

While in space, flight surgeons work at the NASA Mission Control Center and hold weekly private medical conferences with their assigned astronauts. According to the space agency, all the information discussed stays private unless it could affect the mission.

“Given the significant investment in training and preparation for missions, it is critical that flight crewmembers are kept as healthy as possible,” NASA wrote.

To talk to astronauts as they conduct research beyond Earth’s atmosphere, NASA also heavily relies on telemedicine, a practice that has become more familiar during the coronavirus pandemic.

The “smart medical systems” allow physicians to not only diagnose ill astronauts while they work in arguably one of the most remote environments, but also provide treatment options.

For example, in 2020 a UNC medical expert was brought in to help an astronaut aboard the International Space Station that had a blood clot.

According to UNC Health, the astronaut was two months into a six-month mission when Dr. Stephan Moll got the call to help establish a method of treatment for the first blood clot case discovered in space.

Topic Discussed: Here’s how NASA treats astronauts who get sick in space

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