5 Ways Air Travel Can Affect Your Body (And What You Can Do About It)

February 11, 2021


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Planes and helicopters have revolutionised travel and made the world more accessible than ever before. Whether you need to travel to another region quickly or you want to explore far-flung locations, air travel is typically the easiest, fastest and safest way to get to your destination. 

Despite the benefits it offers, air travel can have an impact on your well-being, particularly if you fly regularly or you embark on a long-haul trip. Fortunately, there are ways to minimise the impact. To learn more, take a look at these five ways air travel can affect your body and what you can do about it:

1. Reduced Oxygen Levels

In order to prevent people becoming unwell, airlines repressurise cabins to ensure people get enough oxygen. However, oxygen levels in an aeroplane cabin aren’t the same as they are at sea level, even when it’s been adjusted. Due to this, the oxygen levels in your blood will be lower than normal during a flight, which can lead to headaches and tiredness. 

If might be tempting to reach for a coffee or an energy drink when you’re feeling fatigued, but the subsequent crash could leave you feeling worse. Instead, stay hydrated with water and avoid alcohol or caffeine, if you can. 

2. Restricted Blood Flow

Airline cabins are notoriously cramped, which means there’s limited legroom when you’re in your seat. Sitting for long periods of time affects your blood circulation and makes it harder for blood to reach your extremities. This can result in swelling of the ankles, lower legs and feet and could increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). 

You can combat this by staying as active as possible during your flight. Taking regular walks around the cabin will help to restore normal blood circulation but even keeping your feet and ankles moving while you’re seated can have a positive impact. Of course, if you have high risk factors for DVT, it’s important to seek medical advice before you fly. 

3. Exacerbate Existing Conditions

Some medical conditions or symptoms can be exacerbated by air travel, which is why it’s important to talk to your physicians about any upcoming travel plans. It’s not advisable to fly immediately following some types of surgeries, for example, so you may need to modify your plans to prioritise your health. 

It’s well-known that air travel can leave your eyes feeling dry and gritty, but your symptoms may be worse if you’ve got an established eye condition or have recently undergone treatment. If this applies to you, expert advice from an ophthalmologist, like retinaandeye.com.au, will help you to decide when it’s safe to travel and whether you need to take any precautions. Fortunately, most medical conditions can be supported during a flight, so you won’t have to put your travel plans on hold for too long. 

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4. Increased Ear Pressure

Being exposed to different barometric pressure affects the tympanic membrane in the ear, which is why your ears might feel full or stuffy when you’re on a flight. This is usually more noticeable during take-off or landing when you’re experiencing various levels of air pressure in a short space of time. 

To remedy this, you need to restore the balance and pressure in the ear, also known as ‘making your ears pop’. During takeoff, try chewing gum or a sweet to release air from the middle ear into your eustachian tube. When you’re landing, yawning or swallowing helps to increase the amount of air in the middle ear and should ease any ear discomfort. 

5. Higher Stress Levels

It is not unusual for people to feel more stressed prior to, during and following a flight. Whether or not you’re a nervous flier, the worry about getting to the airport on time, dealing with long queues or being unsure what your destination will be like can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed if you aren’t prepared. 

You can combat this by using stress reduction techniques in the lead up to your journey, as well as on the flight itself. With meditation or mindfulness, for example, you can reduce your body’s stress levels and actually enjoy your journey. 

Feel Fresh Upon Arrival

Now you’ve got a glimpse of how your body can respond to air travel, you’ll know exactly how to minimise the symptoms and side effects that come with flying. By doing so, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in the air and feel fresh and revitalised when you arrive at your destination. 

*contributed post*

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