How Air Travel Impacts Your Body and Tips to Minimize Its Negative Effects

How Air Travel Impacts Your Body and Tips to Minimize Its Negative Effects

Traveling by air is the fastest way to cover long distances, but it can take a toll on your body. This holiday season, plan wisely with guidance from Mark Rosenberg, DO, and the team at Macomb Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Here, Dr. Rosenberg explains how air travel impacts your health and provides essential tips for minimizing these effects.

1. Managing stress

The journey begins before boarding; navigating crowded lines, handling heavy luggage, and plodding through security can all create stress.

Once seated, stressors can snowball: a passenger constantly squeezing past you for frequent trips to the restroom, a child in the row behind kicking your seat, or someone in front who fully reclines their seat.

Not all air travel stressors can be avoided or easily managed. Your best course is to plan ahead, get to the airport early, and keep any necessary medications in your carry-on to prevent issues with delayed or lost luggage. 

2. Combating fatigue

Despite adjustments in cabin pressure, issues like airplane headaches or drowsiness may still arise. Additionally, adjusting to different time zones can disrupt your internal clock.

Get a solid night’s sleep before travel, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during your flight. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen jet lag symptoms.

3. Beating dehydration

Airplane cabins are known for low humidity levels, causing throat, nose, and skin dryness. That can lead to discomfort, such as airplane acne and bad breath.

To counteract dehydration, increase your water intake. Wear glasses instead of contact lenses and pack essentials like lotion, eye drops, and nasal spray for added comfort.

4. Avoiding vacation constipation

Changes in bowel movements are common during travel due to limited access to plane bathrooms and dietary changes.

Prepare by incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet before traveling. During the journey, prioritize exercise and choose high-fiber snacks like nuts and fruits. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly.

5. Minimizing germ exposure

Despite advanced air filtering systems, the risk of exposure to germs remains. Large groups of people in close quarters increase the chances of encountering sick or contagious individuals.

Protect yourself by getting necessary vaccines, like the flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine, at least two weeks before travel. Carry hand sanitizer or wipes to sanitize hands, trays, and armrests. Consider wearing a mask for added precaution.

6. Easing ear discomfort

Fluctuating cabin pressure during takeoff and landing can cause ear discomfort and potential motion sickness.

Relieve pressure by yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum. For infants, a pacifier or bottle can be soothing. These simple actions can help maintain balance and alleviate discomfort associated with changes in air pressure.

7. Preventing swelling

Extended periods of sitting can lead to swelling in your feet and ankles, with a heightened risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Combat these issues with ankle rotations, flexions, and seat extensions during your flight. If you have DVT risk factors, consult your medical provider about wearing compression stockings and the potential use of anticoagulant drugs.

Additional tips for healthy air travel

If you're unwell, consider postponing air travel to avoid complications. Cold- or allergy-related inflammation can block eustachian tubes, potentially causing pain and ear damage during takeoff and landing.

For more tips on staying healthy during air travel and for your pre-trip vaccines, call Macomb Medical Clinic today at 586-315-2393 to make an appointment with Dr. Rosenberg.

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