Don't Just Survive the Flight
January 24, 2021
Susan Sherren R.N., M.S. Health Communications
Founder of Couture Global Trips, LLC
Jetting around the world has its perks- new places, great food, exciting adventures, and the chance to get away from it all. The travel bug is hard to shake. Before COVID-19, we traveled more than ever; The FAA reported a shocking 2.7 million passengers in 2018 flew every day in and out of U.S. airports. The U.S. Department of National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) stated," a staggering 93 million of us traveled outside of the United States in 2018". Corporate travel is also likely to resume to a more robust state in the coming decades. Statista reported- in 2018, U.S. travelers took 463.6 million domestic business trips. This figure was forecasted to rise to 493.7 million by 2022. The question is, how do we make the most out of our addiction post-pandemic?
The airlines have taken advantage of our drive to fly by scrunching seat space, cutting back on meals, paring back amenity kits, and so forth. Can you imagine if we could all fly in First Class and hold the coveted Executive Platinum (American Airlines) status? So how do we cope? Learning how to become a self-reliant traveler is an excellent starting point in our post-pandemic realm.
Upon landing, my stomach was also quite queasy. I regretted indulging myself on pizza at 2 am over the Atlantic and had slurped up far too many Diet Cokes during my journey. To make things even less ideal, my swollen legs ached, and I had a horrible crick in my neck, which slowed me up a bit. I kept telling myself I was having fun, but in reality, I was longing for my nice comfy bed back at home in Dallas, Texas.
At a posh Kensington hotel, the receptionist reminded me check-in was not till 3 pm. I wanted to politely tell her that it was 2 am in Dallas, and I needed my bed now. Reluctantly, I set off familiarizing myself with the London Underground, scavenged up a delicious crepe in Hyde Park, and headed out to see the sights.
I had dreamed of visiting London but was worn out and looked exhausted. Later in the day, I arrived for a prescheduled choir performance at Westminster Abbey; unfortunately, I kept falling asleep during the performance. It occurred to me that this was a horrible way to start a vacation. The performance did end; I took a quick peek around, then I was excitedly off to the hotel and finally prepped for bed.
Feeling Dried Out
The antidote to many of these travel side effects is advanced preparation. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 8 ounces of fluid for every air hour you are in-flight. This guideline will help keep you hydrated even though you find yourself making a few more trips to the bathroom. Pre-hydrating by drinking fluids in the boarding area is a great way to get ahead of any in-flight dehydration. You can also up your fluid intake by consuming water-based foods (soups, fruits, and vegetables). You might also experiment with powered hydration amplifiers like Drip Drip and Liquid IV. These products come in travel size packets that are mixed easily with water. Consider preloading your body with fluids a couple of hours before the trip, especially if you're planning on popping a sleeping pill and napping most of the flight.
Applying in-flight moisturizers, nasal gels, and having facial spritzers available during the flight can help your completion stay plump and moist. Under-eye gel pads and lip moisturizers also keep you looking fresh. Moisturizing eye drops are also a great solution to the dry and irritated eye problems that plague many travelers.
Aisle Seat Advantages
An aisle seat assignment is a good move- it gives you more freedom of movement, especially if you need to access the bathroom. On long-haul flights moving around helps to reduce blood and fluid stasis in your lower extremities. Flexing your feet while seated, walking around the cabin when safe, and staying hydrated can help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT's can develop into a life-threatening situation. Wearing compression stockings with the standard 15-20 mmHg will also decrease your chances of developing a blood clot. The possibility of developing a blood clot increases with each hour of flying—flight times of greater than 4 hours places you at higher risk. Also, avoid tight-fitting clothing, and crossing your legs for extended periods can reduce your risks. These recommendations are vital for those travelers over the age of 60 or travelers with underlying medical conditions. Always consult with your physician about which precautions are most relevant to you. Another great tip is to schedule your check-ups outside of any travel cancellation dates. You want to be in tip-top shape when you venture out.
It's Cold Up There
Another common complaint among flyers is the cold ambient air temperature. The air contains slightly lower but safe levels of oxygen. Oxygen consumption increases as our body temperatures climb. Our bodies use less oxygen when our body is chilled. Thus keeping the cabin on the cool-side decreases the chance of inducing fainting or other noticeable side effects from hypoxia. So dress warmly if your cold-sensitive. A travel blanket helps keep you comfortable and prevents shivering, which increases oxygen consumption. You might feel a bit more at ease, packing a cozy blanket from home. Drinking warm teas or soups keep you feeling warm and aids in hydration. It's a smart idea to pack finger-less gloves or warm socks, especially if you are prone to being sensitive to chilly in-flight temperatures.
It's not uncommon to feel a bit stressed when traveling, even when you have been longingly looking forward to some away time from your daily grind. The frantic airport environment can cause us to be stressed out passengers. We can combat these jitters by getting to the airport at least 2 hours in advance for domestic travel and up to 3 hours for international flights. Showing up 3 hours early for international travel is recommended, especially if you're not familiar with the airport's layout. Listening to some calming music via air pods, headphones, or other devices can also help chill us out. If the whole take-off and landing process stresses you out, try using a meditation app like Headspace to calm your nerves. Just remember that traveling is part of the vacation process. You can make it enjoyable and bearable with some advanced planning and strategies.
Hidden germs on the plane can throw a wrench in our travel plans. No one wants to get sick on their well-deserved vacation. The Journal of Environmental Health Research states that passengers on airplanes are 100 times more likely to catch a cold than during their daily life on the ground. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer(70%), wiping down your seat area, being up to date on your flu shots and immunizations are key preventative measures. When the lining of our nose and throat becomes dry, the protective coating (mucous membranes) can't effectively do their job of being the first-line defense against viruses and bacteria. So proper hydration and applying a nasal gel such as AYR's saline nasal gel can keep our body tip-top shape.
Avoid touching your face, and use frequent handwashing will all aid in the prevention of a cold. Refrain from sharing food with your traveling companions –don't share your germs. Airplane bathrooms are the number one place to pick up a bug, so refrain from using the bathroom on short fights to lessen your exposure to viruses and bacteria. A helpful habit is to use a paper towel to open the bathroom door after washing your hands.
If you're traveling during flu season, be aware that viruses can survive up to 24 hours on hard surfaces. Studies suggest that where you sit on the plane can also impact your chances of getting sick. Studies have indicated that passengers in window seats are the least likely to get sick, while aisle seats place you at the highest risk of contracting a cold.
Even though it might seem annoying, keeping the air vent on overhead can aid in keeping those germs blown away. Resist the urge to store your phone or any other objects in the front seat pocket where germs are also lurking. You're most likely to get sick from your seatmate, so be considerate to use tissues, and wear your face mask.
The good news is the air you breathe inflight is fairly germ-free thanks to the onboard HEPA filters, which removes 99.9% of most germs. Some studies suggest that taking Vitamin C pre-flight may have some cold preventative benefits and help lessen the symptoms.
- In-flight cabin pressure changes can wreak havoc on our digestive system. Gases in our bodies expand as the cabin pressure falls. Cabin pressure is higher than the pressure on the ground- thus, eating foods known as gas producers like broccoli, legumes, and fruits may cause some discomfort at a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft. It's best to avoid carbonated drinks for these same reasons. Also, avoid greasy foods.
It's a good idea to eat a meal 2-3 hours before your flight time, giving your body ample time for digestion. Remember, you're seated while flying, not burning many calories, so try to curb the urge to splurge on the airline meals- even if they are free. Focus on keeping hydrated and pack some snacks that are easy on the gut. Carbs can also be a gas-producing culprit, so go easy on the pasta. Stick with proteins and stay hydrated. Water with a lemon wedge and ginger gum can both aid the digestive process. So pack an in-flight snack with these suggestions in mind. It can curb those hunger pains, and you'll avoid feeling sick and bloated.
You can arrive at your destination in good form if you realize what conditions your facing when the cabin door shuts. Becoming a smart, well-informed passenger is a way to optimize those precious vacation days. Flying is a fantastic way to see the world, especially if you prepare, educate yourself, and come armed for anything. You'll find cruising at 35,000 ft is a cinch.
Please consult with your medical provider about any of your individual health concerns as it applies to topics discussed in this article. Regular doctor visits and a healthy lifestyle are key to traveling safely and well. None of the information discussed is to be considered or constitutes medical advice.
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