Avoid In-Flight Flu and Other
Airline Health Hazards
Since Memorial Day weekend is a big time for air travel, I want to take the opportunity to discuss some little-known risks.
Heather Robson has worked as a journalist and researcher in the alternative health industry for seven years. She’s worked closely with a number of doctors, helping them to develop informative newsletters that keep their readers abreast of the wide array of choices available when it comes to their health. Heather avoids embracing a single ideology when it comes to health care. Instead, she analyzes the research and facts with as little bias as possible, so that you can get the best information available!
Today, just stepping inside an airplane puts your health at greater risk than ever before. I’m not talking about airline accidents, and I don’t even mean the potential health dangers (or privacy invasions) associated with backscatter x-ray devices.
I’m referring to the incredibly high risk of getting sick from spending time inside a high-tech, aerodynamic germ trap. When you travel by plane, you are instantly 100 times more likely to catch a cold or come down with the flu than if you’d stayed grounded. Yes, 100 times!
Serious Medical Issues Stem from Air Travel
With more international flights and dangerous diseases like measles bouncing from country to country via plane, you have to worry about more serious illnesses, too – not that the flu can’t be deadly serious.
Air travel also puts you at higher risk of a life-threatening pulmonary embolism – even if you’ve never been diagnosed with heart disease or circulation problems.
Frequent flying can damage your hearing… and even jet lag is tied to some nasty, long-term health risks.
Even with all the dangers, I certainly don’t recommend that you forego flying. If you need to get somewhere far away, there’s just not a more convenient way to go. So, instead of cancelling your travel plans, let’s take a look at what you can do to protect yourself when you fly…
The Most Common Flight Risk
More than anything else, when you fly you risk being laid up with a cold or the flu. Even though these illnesses are typically minor, they’re no fun and best avoided if possible.
When you fly, make sure you drink lots of water. The low humidity in the cabin dries out your nasal passages, which makes it easier for viruses to gain a foothold in your body and make you sick. You can combat this effect by staying hydrated.
You don’t have to guzzle gallons of water, but sip on water often – before and during your flight.
You can also help to prevent colds by using a nasal mist, by keeping your hands clean (I’m not a major advocate of hand sanitizers, but I make an exception when flying), and by taking extra vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A leading up to a trip.
Protect Yourself from Dangerous Blood Clots
When you fly, the changes in pressure, the prolonged inactivity, and even the extra-dry air may cause what is known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. Many doctors believe that air flight causes changes in your circulation that trigger small blood clots to form in your legs, particularly on long flights where you may be inactive for hours.
Sometimes one of these clots is big enough to block the flow of blood to the rest of your leg. When that happens, your leg begins to ache and may swell. The real danger is if one of these clots breaks free and lodges in the artery that leads to your lungs. That’s a pulmonary embolism, and it can be deadly.
People at the highest risk of DVT are those who have cancer or heart disease, who are overweight, who have been sick, or who have had a recent surgery. Taking hormone-altering drugs can also increase your risk. You can reduce your risk by making it a point to move around during your flight.
Here a few health tips to consider before your next flight:
If you do have any signs or symptoms of DVT in the days following air travel, see a doctor right away.
Prevent Hearing Damage
The constant roar of a jet’s engines can eventually take a toll on your hearing, especially if you’re a frequent flyer. In this case, protection is simple. Just invest in a pair of noise reduction headphones and wear them for the better part of the flight.
Don’t Let Jet Lag Wear You Down
A long-term health risk associated with flying is jet lag. When you travel across time zones, you can mix up your internal clock and your sleep patterns. The short-term risks of jet lag include headaches, nausea, and insomnia. Long-term risks of frequent jet lag include cognitive decline and mood disorders. It can also contribute to heart disease and certain cancers.
You can minimize the impact of jet lag on your body by gradually adjusting your sleep schedule during the week before a trip. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep before you depart. Once you board the plane, set your watch to your new time zone. Once you arrive at your destination, get outside and walk around. Don’t go to bed until a normal time for the time zone you’re in. And, one more time… stay hydrated. It will help you adjust more quickly.
Being able to fly from one destination to the next is a major convenience and not one that I’m willing to give up. By following the tips here, you can make sure that you stay healthy before, during, and after your trip.
Happy Memorial Day,
Heather Robson, HealthEdge
Thanks to my friends who sent me this article to share with you. He is a retired commercial airline pilot, and she has done her share of flying. We know it is easy to pick up “bugs” when we travel, but Heather has pointed out ways to avoid it, and how to return home as healthy as when you left. pb
|Lee Bellinger’s HealthEdge, a free supplemental email newsletter to Independent Living|