Physical Effects of Flying

How Flying can have Detrimental Heath Effects and How to Combat Them

Flying is one of the safest forms of travel. That doesn’t mean that moving through the sky at more than 30,000 feet doesn’t have its own associated problems. Below is a look at some of the physical problems that you could endure when flying and the best solutions there are to avoid them.

Physical Effects of Flying: Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the biggest problems you can face when flying. The air inside the cabin comes from outside of the plane, and when you’re at high altitude, the air is incredibly dry, with moisture levels at under 10 percent. Being dehydrated can lead to fatigue, especially when its in combination with the lowered pressure of cabin air.

Thankfully, the solution to dehydration is a simple one. Drink water. Ensure you’re hydrated fully before even boarding the plane and also bring your own water bottle on board. The cabin crew will invariably give out water on all non-short flights. Dehydration can lead to dry eyes and dried out nasal passages too, so consider eye drops and nasal sprays if you are prone to either.

How Flying Affects Your Circulation

If you’re sitting in exactly the same spot for a number of hours, blood circulation can be limited. In extreme circumstances this can lead to instances of Deep Vein Thrombosis, when blood clots can form in the veins of your legs.

You should ensure that you get up and walk around every couple of hours if you can, while staying hydrated will help in this regard too. Even if you don’t want to get up (we all know it’s easier to stay where you are if a stranger is sat between you and the aisle!) simple exercises like flexing your ankles will improve blood flow through the legs. On longer flights you can significantly reduce the chances of circulation problems by wearing compression stockings (perfect perhaps for flyers who are not as mobile as others).

Healthy Flying Tips

Sleep Schedules and Jet Lag

When you travel to another country in a different time zone, our body clock needs to reset. A general rule seems to be that for every hour apart, it will take the body a whole day to re-acclimatise to the new time zone. Fly to somewhere where there is a 7-hour time difference, and you’ll be looking at a whole week for the body to acclimatise fully.

If you’re going on a short business trip or just away for a couple of days, it can be an idea to simply not try and acclimatise at all – simply stick to the same time zones you would have at home. If you are going on a short trip, it usually wouldn’t be too far anyway. If you are travelling further away, it can be an idea to aim to adjust as quickly as possible. Exercising daily and getting outdoors can be a great remedy for jet lag too, two things you might want to do anyway when away.

Viruses and Bacteria: Contamination

Being in a confined space means that air is recirculated much more than when on the ground. This gives germs a fantastic opportunity to spread. Recent research has suggested that you are a hundred times more likely to catch a cold during a flight, than when on the ground.

Ensuring that you wash your hands regularly is always a good move, both on the air and on the ground. Carrying sanitising wipes can also help in this regard – use them to wipe your tray table, which is said to be one of the dirtiest surfaces on a plane.

Ear Popping / Pressure Effect

The shifts in air pressure when flying can give ear pain, in some cases, considerably so. This is caused by the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance. In technical terms, the eustachian tube can’t react fast enough to these changes in air pressure, leading to the pain. This can be a problem on the ascent for some, although it is generally more pronounced when descending.

Swallowing or yawning can open the eustachian tube, allowing the middle ear to get more air. Chewing gum can also hope. The temporary pressure in the air is short terms and won’t have any lasting damage.

Headaches from Low Oxygen

The lower oxygen levels in an aircraft cabin can create cases mild hypoxia (low oxygen levels) – a recent study in the UK showed that levels can drop as much as 4%. In some susceptible individuals, this can lead to headaches.

To help prevent these headaches, once again drink plenty of water, while alcohol and caffeine should be avoided.

Wrapping Up: Preparation is Key to Avoiding Health Problems while Flying

The good news is that with some preparation, the problems associated with flying are easy to overcome. Hydration and regular movement will go a long way to mitigating the worst effects. Whether you get sat next to someone with a full-on cold….well, that is down to pure chance!

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