Travel Health ArticlesAvoiding Jet Lag Cardiovascular Disease and Travel Deep Vein Thrombosis Hotel Health Insect Protection Medical Assistance on a Trip Abroad Moving Beyond Motion Sickness Staying Healthy on the Road Sun Safety Information for Everyone Tips for Healthy Air Travel Water Purification Overseas Why Travel Medicine?
It’s a rare traveler that has experienced no ill effects from international air travel. Most of these common ailments can be easily avoided, and a little planning and preparation can make your next overseas flight much more enjoyable.
The greatest cause of jet lag is rapid transit across world time zones. The more time zones we cross, the greater the disruption of our body clock (which governs our temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure, and physiological patterns), resulting in disorientation and mental and physical fatigue.
Swelling and DVT
Sitting for extended periods of time in a cramped airline seat (or bus, car or train seat) can impact circulation, causing swelling and painful joints, and increasing the possibility of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs, a condition which has been tagged "Economy Class Syndrome" by some travel writers. While the risk is small for most healthy people, many airlines are issuing DVT warnings to their passengers on their websites and when long-haul tickets are purchased.
Under normal circumstances, your brain gathers information using your eyes, your inner ear, and your expectations and previous experiences. For motion sickness sufferers the problem begins when the brain receives visual and sensory clues that contradict each other. For example, you are in a middle row with no view of the horizon, the cabin appears to be still, but the balance mechanism in your inner ear detects that you are moving. You become pale, and develop a cold sweat on your forehead and upper lip, followed by headache and nausea.
Colds and Flu
Many travelers report that they seem to get sick every time they fly. This is not surprising when hundreds of people spend hours packed into a small space, sharing desert-dry air that dehydrates sinus cavities and inhibits the ability to fight germs.
What Can We Do?
- Start your trip well rested.
- Drink plenty of water - 8 to 16 ounces during each hour of travel. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine, as they both dehydrate you and interfere with sleep, and avoid salty foods. Use a hydrating nasal spray to help prevent airborne infections.
- Make sure you dress in comfortable, non-binding clothes made of soft fabrics with elastic waist bands. Wear support socks that apply graduated compression to the lower legs to reduce swelling and enhance circulation.
- If you are prone to motion sickness, request a window seat. You'll be able to keep the horizon in sight and avoid some of the sensory confusion that can lead to queasiness. Acupressure bands can be very effective in relieving symptoms of motion sickness without the side effects of medication. Keep a stash of bland foods like crackers or soda water.
- Exercise your feet and legs four to five minutes every hour when seated.
- If your legs are not long enough for your feet to rest comfortably on the floor, use a footrest to reduce seat pressure on the back of your thighs.
- Stow your carry-on bag in the overhead bin, allowing you to take advantage of all available leg space.
- Clean hands frequently and disinfect surfaces to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections.
- Sleep on the plane. Since there are never enough blankets or pillows for everyone on board, and those that are available may not be laundered between flights, earplugs, eyeshade, blanket and a comfortable neck pillow are well worth their packing space. Fasten your seatbelt over your blanket so you won't be disturbed should the seatbelt sign come on.
- To help reset your body clock, try to stay awake until bedtime rather than taking a nap upon arrival - spending time outdoors seems to help most travelers. Have a long hot bath before bed to rehydrate and relax.
- Many travelers have depended successfully on No Jet-Lag, an effective, natural, homeopathic product that addresses not just sleeplessness but all the symptoms of jet lag.