Staying Healthy In the Air/Air Travel

Once upon a time, flying was more than just a way to quickly get from point A to point B. Not so long ago flying was an elegant experience that people actually looked forward to. It was an experience steeped in pageantry that was to be enjoyed rather than endured. And while times have clearly changed, travelling by air can still be an awe inspiring experience that you enjoy rather than endured by considering these tips;

  1. Carry an adequate supply of all of your medications on board with you rather than in your checked luggage. While lost checked bags are always a frustration for travelers, lost checked bags containing a travelers prescription medication can quickly go from being a frustration to being a dangerous situation.
  2. If you have a medical condition that can cause you to lose consciousness (i.e. Epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease, etc) carry a medical identification care that details your demographic information, your medications taken and your medical allergies.
  3. On flights of two hours or longer remember to keep active. Sitting for prolonged periods of time promotes the blood in the veins of your legs to sit and then clot. These clots can then move from the veins in your legs to your lungs when you do finally get up and move and when these clots travel to your lungs it can be life threatening. So every 2 hours or so get up and walk. But if you don’t want to get up and walk every 2 hours or so then keep the area beneath your seat clear of objects and do leg exercises that involve you flexing an extending your feet back and forth at the ankle joint like you are pressing the accelerator of a car or do ankle rolls.
    1. If you don’t have a medical condition or take medications that increases your risk of bleeding then consider taking a Baby Aspirin (i.e. 81mg) 30 minutes before your flight to decrease the risk of developing blood clots.
    2. Avoid crossing your legs to decrease the risk of clot formation.
    3. Drink at least 8 ounces of water every 2 hours to keep the blood thinner in an effort to decrease the risk of developing clots.
    4. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They can cause dehydration and dehydration can thicken the blood increasing the risk for clot formation.
  4. If you frequently suffer from painful ears while flying consider chewing gum during your flight and drinking a liquid during takeoff and landing. You can also take a decongestant like pseudoephedrine or an antihistamine like Benadryl prior to taking off.
  5. If you frequently feel dizzy or nauseated while flying you can take antiemetic’s (anti-nausea medications) like Reglan, Zofran or Scopolamine prior to takeoff. Oftentimes taking a decongestant like pseudoephedrine prior to takeoff can also help to prevent dizziness or nausea.
    1. Many travelers like the Scopolamine patch, a small round transparent patch containing Scopolamine that is placed behind the travelers ear and that slowly release Scopolamine into the travelers system thereby preventing nausea.
  6. If you frequently feel gassy or bloated when flying eat slowly, avoid eating gas producing foods like peanuts, greens/cabbage, beans/legumes, etc and avoid carbonated beverages. Airplane cabins are maintained a lower air pressure than we are accustom to. These lower air pressures can cause the natural gas in our GI tracts to expand making us feel bloated and gassy.
    1. Pack gas relieving medications like Gas-X or Simethicone.
  7. If you want to avoid a “Travelers Cold” wash your hands frequently, consider switching your seat to a less populated area of the plane if empty seats are available and in the days prior to and of travel eat lots of fresh fruit, vitamin C and Zinc to boost your immune system. Also carry disinfectant wipes in your carryon bag and wipe down you seat armrests and tray immediately after boarding.
  8. To avoid Jet Lag adjust your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you board the plane and adjust your activity to match the time at your destination so that you can more easily adjust upon arrival.
    1. If you want or need to sleep while on the plane but are having difficulty, consider taking Benadryl or Melatonin.
  9. To avoid dehydration drink 8 ounces of water every few hours, moisturize your lips with lip balm and moisturize your skin with skin lotion. Remember airplane cabins are kept much dryer than our normal environments and can easily lead to dehydration. Dehydration can cause nausea, GI upset, persistent headaches, increase the risk of blood clot formation and lessen the activity of your immune system.
  10. Bring a neck pillow. Yeah we know, everybody laughs at the dork with the neck pillow, so do we. But we laugh more at the passenger doing the high altitude bob and weave with their head and neck. And that bobbing and weaving not only makes for some crumby sleep but it can also cause nagging back and neck injuries that can ruin a trip. So swallow your pride and pack a neck pillow.

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