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5 Things to Know Before You Fly

silhouette of a person at the airport, coffee and suitcase in hand, watching a plane flying

Are you planning your next vacation to a far off destination? If so, chances are you’re considering traveling by air to help you to reach your destination as quickly as possible. While your vacation might be a great idea for your overall health and well-being, there are a few risks you should know about before you board the plane.

Risks Associated with Flying

You may be at risk for developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep leg veins. This condition becomes life-threatening when the clot breaks off and moves through the blood stream causing an embolism. Flying can put you at a greater risk for developing this condition since it limits your mobility for long periods of time. Whenever you fly you are always at a slight risk for developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but your risk is heightened if you currently suffer from varicose veins. Fortunately, your risk of developing DVT while flying is still relatively low and does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t travel by plane, even if you do have varicose veins. Some precautions you can take to help lower your risk include wearing comfortable and loose-fitting clothing, bending and straightening your legs frequently, massaging your calf muscles, and walking up and down the aisles if possible to keep your blood circulating.

Your blood pressure could rise

The higher you are in the sky, the less oxygen your body will carry, and less oxygen means higher blood pressure. If you typically have a regular blood pressure or even a low blood pressure, this increase will likely have no effect on you. However, those with high blood pressure may be at a greater risk of developing hypertension which can lead to heart failure, coronary artery disease, and other health conditions. If you suffer from high blood pressure it doesn’t mean you can’t travel by plane, it just means you have to be cautious. Make sure to stand up and move around the plane when it is safe to do so. Avoid eating salty snacks and consuming alcohol and sedatives. Also, if you take blood pressure medication, don’t forget to pack it in your carry-on so you can take it as needed.

You might develop an earache or temporary hearing loss

When you fly the change in altitude comes on so quickly that it doesn’t allow your ears to adjust to the air pressure outside, meaning that the two are not equalized. This results in the dreaded and often painful earache and temporary hearing loss that many people experience while flying. Some things you can do to avoid developing these issues include swallowing which will cause the air pressure both outside and inside the ear to equalize, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy to stimulate swallowing, yawning, and drinking lots of fluids.

You may become dehydrated

Planes circulate purified air from the outside. While this may sound ideal, the air up above is extremely low in humidity, ranging around 10-20%, when our bodies are typically used to levels around 30%-65%. This dryness can cause many uncomfortable symptoms ranging from scratchy eyes to a dry, sore throat. When your airways are dried out, your body is also put at a greater risk of catching other illnesses. The solution here is simple – drink up! Your best defense is to consume ample amounts of water to keep your body hydrated, while avoiding alcohol, coffee and tea which are natural diuretics.

You could experience jet lag

If you’re traveling to an area with a different time zone, you may develop jet lag. This risk will increase depending on how many time zones you cross and the further you go, the longer it could take for you to overcome your jet lag. Many travelers dismiss this as an unpleasant side effect of traveling that may make them tired or throw off their sleep schedule. However, jet lag can also cause diarrhea, constipation, confusion, anxiety, nausea, and other uncomfortable side effects. The sooner you adjust to your new time zone and overcome your jet lag, the better. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for your trip and limit your chance of developing this disorder, including changing your sleep schedule to be more in sync with your new time zone prior to departure. However, it is important to make sure you are still well rested before your trip.

When you keep these items in mind and take extra precautions while traveling you’ll be sure to have a safe and healthy trip no matter where life takes you.

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