Healthy Travel: Surviving a Long Flight

July 22, 2019 | Abby Caviness

Long international flights can be excruciating, especially if you do not prepare accordingly or pack the right essentials. While flying itself is not dangerous, there are a few risks and ways traveling by plane can affect your health. However, if you take the necessary steps before boarding your flight and while you are in the air, your flight should go smoothly, and you will come out healthy on the other side. Lucky for you, USHEALTH Group® is providing some tips on how to survive long flights and avoid the risks associated with them.*

Close up shot of a young man asleep with his head back snoring on long flights.

Healthy Rest and Relaxation on Long Flights

Flying internationally or for more than a few hours can take its toll on your health due to the long hours and being stuck in uncomfortable seating. In addition, if your flight times lend themselves to taking a nap, being unprepared can ruin a good night’s sleep. However, packing a few of these items in your carry-on can make long flights a bit more bearable, allowing you to rest and stay healthy. These items include:1

  • Neck pillow
  • Long socks
  • Light jacket
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Sleep mask
  • Soft, breathable shoes
  • Noise-canceling headphones

If you are planning to sleep on the flight, your main objective should be to get as comfortable as possible. A pillow, sleep mask, headphones, and a jacket should help you to accomplish this by blocking out all distracting sights and sounds, and a jacket should keep your body temperature comfortable.

However, if you are trying to avoid jetlag, it may benefit you more to avoid sleeping if the place you are going to has a completely different time zone.2 In that case, any items you decide to bring in your carry-on to keep you relaxed and comfortable will be beneficial. Stress can have adverse effects on your body and if you already have aviophobia, a long flight can be a recipe for disaster.3 You should keep yourself distracted with something you enjoy doing, like watching a movie or reading a book, so you stay calm throughout long flights. And you know what they say—time flies when you are having fun!

A young woman stretching during long flights.

Avoiding Health Risks

If you think about what airplanes are, it is pretty obvious they are not the healthiest environment to be in. A couple of hundred people crammed in a pressurized metal tube, thousands of feet in the sky, and being served less-than-nutritious meals—your health is bound to take a hit. Everything from the air, the surfaces, and the low cabin pressure can affect you in various ways, so it is important to prepare for them and know what to do to avoid the consequences. Some of these risks—and ways to avoid them—are:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)5

DVT is a potentially life-threatening condition in which a blood clot forms in one of your body’s deep veins. These blood clots are caused by extended periods of sitting, which slows blood circulation to the legs. When flying, there is an increased risk for DVT due to prolonged inactivity and dry cabin air. However, standing up and walking down the aisles of the plane every few hours will help to generate blood flow. In addition, avoid crossing your legs, wearing tight clothing, and remember to stretch your feet and legs even while sitting.

Dry skin4

Because the air in the cabin is so dry, your skin will take a hit in the moisture department. However, you can be prepared by packing along some moisturizer or rosewater spray to hydrate your skin every few hours. In addition, you can pack along some sheet masks to enjoy on a long-haul flight if you are in the mood to pamper yourself.

Dehydration3

Due to the cabin’s lack of moisture, it is important to drink a lot of liquids on your flight. While drinking alcohol and coffee is not recommended, drinking a lot of water will counteract the increased risk of dehydration. And while you can probably get away with drinking juices and sodas at mealtime, be sure to wash it down with more water to rinse the sugar from your mouth. In fact, sugar-laden foods and drinks cause dampness and phlegm in your throat, which is an environment where bacteria and viruses thrive.4 When strangers are all around you, you do not want to give bacteria or viruses any reason to like you. So, it is probably safer to just drink water.

Germ-infested surfaces4

Unless you are a germaphobe, you may not stop to think just how many people have sat in your seat before you. While the airplane crew has cleaned up before you entered the plane, the likelihood that they wiped down every tray table, armrest, and door handle is slim. So, pack along some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to ensure you are not picking up any unwelcome hitchhikers on the way to your destination.

Takeaway

Traveling can be fun and exciting—that is until you get caught in the crossfire of one of these risks. Knowing how to avoid these situations and keep yourself healthy on the way to your destination and back home can benefit you greatly in the future. In addition, if you are prepared, you will be less likely to stress and ruin your relaxation. So, take some of these tips on your next flight and you will be on your way to a smooth vacation!

*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.

  1. Paddock, Catharine, “Tips For Healthy Flying,” MedicalNewsToday.com, last modified June 23, 2016, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237345.php
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior,” MayoClinic.org, published April 4, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
  3. Silver, Kate, “Want to stay healthy while flying? Follow this advice from an aviation doctor,” WashingtonPost.com, published August 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/want-to-stay-healthy-while-flying-follow-this-advice-from-an-aviation-doctor/2018/08/08/41c3bdd2-90e5-11e8-8322-b5482bf5e0f5_story.html?utm_term=.5687e6c684fe
  4. Carr, Coeli, “Keeping Healthy While Flying,” WebMD.com, published 2005, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/keeping-healthy-while-flying#1
  5. Morrison, William, “Everything You Need to Know About Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Flying,” Healthline.com, published November 15, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/dvt-and-flying#dvt-and-flying
By |2019-09-23T11:12:21-05:00July 22nd, 2019|Categories: Wellness|Tags: , , , |0 Comments