BY LISA IANNUCCI
Flying can take its toll on your body. From the dry air on the plane to the jet lag and the dehydration, you might not feel your best when you arrive at your destination.
Studies have shown that flying can also increase your risk of contracting influenza, bronchitis, tuberculosis and more. There is an increased risk of bacterial or viral transmission in a confined, crowded environment such as an airplane and the longer your flight, the more at risk you are for inhaling germ-contaminated air.
Cabin air, pressure
“Cabin air has only 5 to 20 percent humidity (compare to the inside of your home which averages around 30 percent to 65 percent) and that low humidity makes respiratory conditions worse,” said Dr. Michael Zimring, director at the Wilderness and Travel Medicine Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
“The resulting dehydration can be a contributing factor to the development of a deep vein thrombus. In addition, cabin air pressure is usually pressurized to 8,000 feet, which causes problems for some people, especially those with chronic lung disease.”
Here are some tips to help you fend off skin damage, bloating and illness to help you to stay healthy while you travel:
Don’t dry out: To counteract nasal dryness on the plane, dab a little gel such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline) around your mouth and use a healing ointment on your chapped lips and dry skin patches. Petroleum jelly can also serve as a protectant on the faces of babies.
Drink up: And no, we don’t mean at the airport bar. Flying can dehydrate you, which is why your skin feels dry, so drinking water will help to hydrate your skin. “Stay well hydrated to help prevent leg clots (deep vein thrombus), which could lead to pulmonary embolisms, known as lung clots,” said Zimring.
Bring eye drops as well as a nasal spray to help ease the dryness.
Changes in cabin pressure can cause painful popping in the ears, especially for children. Chew gum and also have your child chew gum to restore the balance of pressure during takeoff and landing.
Bottle-feeding babies can also be helpful.
“Ground yourself when you’re not feeling well, whether it’s a cold, sinus infection or flu and wait to fly until you feel better,” said Zimring. “If you must travel, ask for over-the-counter meds for your symptoms.”
“Wipe down seat trays with alcohol bases wipes before a meal,” said Zimring. “Use alcohol-based liquid soap to keep hands clean after walking back to your seat and holding or touching the back of people seats to keep balance.”
Watch for symptoms
Using your long flight to get off your feet and catch up on your sleep might seem like a good idea, but this kind of activity can disrupt your sleep schedule and ultimately lead to a serious health problem, deep vein thrombosis. It’s a medical condition that travelers should not ignore.
DVT is an inflammation and development of a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in one of the lower extremities. Symptoms include pain, warmth and swelling in the calf or affected area.
Just because you don’t experience a DVT on the flight doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. Signs of DVT can appear up to several weeks after traveling and without any symptoms.
If you develop calf pain and swelling anytime during your flight, and especially if it is accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain, seek immediate help. If ignored, the clot can travel to the lungs where it becomes an embolism that cuts off blood vessels.