Whether you’re spending an hour at 30,000ft, or crossing multiple times zones, the effects of flying play havoc with your mind, body and circadian rhythm.
Pressure, humidity, cramped conditions and low oxygen levels create the perfect storm for dizziness, swollen joints, dry skin, ruined tastes bud and even bad breath.
Whether a short-haul flight or one crossing timezones, travelling at 30,000ft can play havoc with your body +12
Before you cancel your trip and book a train to the coast, it’s not all bad news.
There are a few things you can do to mitigate the ill-effects and help your body cope with air travel. Here Travel Online runs through some of the most frequent complaints and how to combat them.
Many bodily functions slow down while in-flight as the dramatic change in pressure messes with your metabolism, and your body decides to prioritise other functions instead.
Snacking on fast food, sugary drinks and chocolate exacerbates the problem and allows sulfur to form +12
Snacking on fast food, sugary drinks and chocolate exacerbates the problem and allows sulfur to form. The salivary glands are affected and produce less saliva which means more bacteria grows inside the mouth and bad breath develops.
As most travellers snack on fast food, sugary drinks and chocolate the problem is exacerbated as bacteria feasts on sugar. Food particles left behind in the mouth produce a sulfur compound which causes the bad smell.
Be mindful of the problem: Drink water, eat healthily and brush your teeth in between meals to stop bad breath +12
Fix it: It’s common sense, but be mindful of your breath. Eat healthily, drink water and brush your teeth after meals. Emergency mints will mask the problem but not get rid of it for good.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) this is when, due to poor circulation, a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of the body. It’s a well-known risk when travelling and every year one in every 1,000 people in the UK is affected by DVT.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by poor circulation and exacerbated by long period sitting down +12.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by poor circulation and exacerbated by long period sitting down.
Sitting still for long periods in cramped conditions, dehydration and low cabin pressure all contribute to the problem, according to the American Heart Association.
As you get older the risk factor goes up. Watch out for legs swelling, feeling heavy and socks causing indentation marks around the ankles where they didn’t before.
If you are locked in a window sleep lift your feet up and down and rotate them in circles every half an hour +12.
If you are locked in a window sleep lift your feet up and down and rotate them in circles every half an hour.
Fix it: Keep your circulation in check by getting up and walking around once an hour. If you are locked in a terrible window sleep, or with sleeping passengers either side, you can lift your feet up and down and rotate them in circles every half an hour to keep the blood flowing. Buy compression stockings and socks will apply pressure to the lower leg and maintain better circulation.
Keep your circulation in check by getting up and walking around once an hour or try foot and leg exercises +12.
Keep your circulation in check by getting up and walking around once an hour or try foot and leg exercises.
Stay fresh and fabulous – even when flying coast to coast.
Ruined taste buds
A Lufthansa study in 2010 found that passengers’ ability to taste salty and sweet can drop by as much as 30 per cent in-flight. On flights where food is particularly poor this might be a good thing.
At between 30,000 and 35,000ft humidity is well below the 15 per cent required to keep nasal passages and mucus membranes in your mouth moist. Both are linked to taste buds so hamper your ability to distinguish between different flavours.
A study in 2010 found that passengers’ ability to taste salty and sweet can drop by 30 per cent in-flight +12. A study in 2010 found that passengers’ ability to taste salty and sweet can drop by 30 per cent in-flight.
Fix it: Drink lots of water, and regularly to keep the mouth moist. Experts suggest drinking one or two cups of water an hour will keep you hydrated. If you have a choice, pick spicy, sour or bitter foods to eat in-flight as they taste more strongly.
Cabins are pressurised to make you feel as though you are at roughly 7,000ft, that’s 11 pounds per square inch. It’s the equivalent effect on your body as if you were sitting on top of a mountain. s a result oxygen in the air thins and your blood oxygen levels decrease to 93 per cent at cruising altitude. The result of less oxygen circulating to essential cells in the body is fatigue, headaches and dizziness. Cabins are pressurised to 7,000 ft which makes your body feel as though it is on top of a mountain +12.
Cabins are pressurised to 7,000 ft which makes your body feel as though it is on top of a mountain.
Fix it: Sadly, there’s not much you can do apart from take care of yourself. Don’t drink alcohol as it interferes with your cells’ metabolism and makes them less efficient at absorbing oxygen. Stay fit, lose weight and don’t smoke and the effects will be less severe.
Pressurised cabins have low levels of humidity and are very dry places to be for any length of time. The Association of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends humidity at between 30 and 64 per cent for humans to be comfortable.
Ward off dry skin by drinking plenty of fluids – but not alcohol – on your flight. Experts suggest two cups a hour +12.
In an aircraft, it can drop to two per cent and the natural moisture in your skin quickly evaporates over time.Your face, hands and other extremities will start to feel dry and look dull and parched.
What’s more, if you get stressed while travelling your skin can suffer even more. Stress produces the hormone cortisol which impacts skin’s ability to function as a barrier and contributes to redness, blotchiness and breakouts.
Take a pot or two of moisturiser in your hand luggage but make sure each is under 100ml and use liberally +12.
Fix it: Keep drinking water to stay hydrated from the inside and take a pot or two of moisturiser in your hand luggage – just make sure each is under 100ml.
Flights can be uncomfortable enough without adding this to the mix. Sitting for long periods of time and the dramatic change of pressure on your body make your metabolism slow right down.
The result is gas, bloating, constipation and stomach pains. It can also be brought on by a change in routine and altering the body’s circadian clock – all of which are common occurrences for those hopping in between time zones.
Sitting for long periods and a dramatic change of pressure can make your metabolism slow right down +12.
Sitting for long periods and a dramatic change of pressure can make your metabolism slow right down.
Fix it: Don’t eat a large meal just before boarding or while airborne. Get up from your seat and move about every hour or so and take a healthy, high fibre snack with you such as nuts or seeds to aid digestion.
Don’t postpone visits to the bathroom if it’s inconvenient in an airport terminal. If you need to go, make it happen. Gentle over-the-counter laxatives are available but are inadvisable to rely on as they can block the absorption of essential nutrients if overused.