The effects of flying can cause havoc on your body. We’ve all heard of jet lag, a.k.a. ‘time zone change syndrome’, but do you know about UV exposure, the bends or bloating and swelling? We’ve made a list of 5 symptoms, why they happen, and what you can do to lessen the effects on your body.
As the plane rises and cabin pressure drops, gases in your body expand. This can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and bloating. It can also affect your ears as the fluctuations don’t allow air to pass through quickly enough to pressurise properly. If you have tooth decay or fillings, tiny pockets of gas can become trapped and cause unwanted toothaches.
How do you combat these effects of flying? Avoid carbonated drinks and meals that contain gassy foods like broccoli and beans, just before and during your flight. Drink plenty of water to make sure you’re properly hydrated and remember that moving around during flight… helps get things moving!
2. UV ray exposure
Whilst majority of airplane windshields block UV-B, UV-A transmission still occurs. According to research conducted by a team of specialists from the University of California, San Francisco, Pilots flying for just under one hour at 30,000 feet receive the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic effective radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning bed session.
So, what can be done to combat this? Until more research is conducted and airlines implement better UV protection on aircraft windshields, make sure you apply sunscreen.
3. The Bends
Also known as Decompression Sickness. This disease is most common in scuba divers however occurs in high altitude or aerospace events. Decompression sickness (DCS) occurs when dissolved gasses come out of solution in bubbles. It can affect almost any body area from heart, lungs, joints, skin and brain. You can be at risk of getting DCS if you fly in an unpressurised aircraft above 18,000 feet, or at lower altitude if you SCUBA dive prior to your flight.
The best way to prevent DCS is to make sure you wait at least 48 hours before boarding your flight if you have gone SCUBA diving.
4. Deep vein thrombosis
One of the scariest physical side effects of flying is undoubtedly deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Swelling in the feet and legs can be an indication of a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg or thigh area. Swelling and blood clots occur when blood flow from the legs to heart is hampered. This can be caused by not moving for long periods of time. As a result, the blood can pool in the leg veins.
The best way to prevent DVT is by doing in-air exercises and getting up and walking frequently during long haul flights.
5. Common cold
Sitting in a cabin with hundreds of passengers brings with it airborne pathogens. Travelling is a great experience however, when flying you are often around people from many different countries who may expose you to strains of virus that your body hasn’t acquired immunity to yet.
Another culprit for your common cold could be the low humidity of cabin air. Research suggests that in low humidity, the Mucociliary Clearance System, which are a thinn layer of mucus and tiny hairs in the nose, is interrupted and doesn’t work properly.
So what can you do to prevent this effect of flying on your body? Make sure your hands are clean if you touch your mouth, eyes and nose. Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitiser to kill any bacteria and viruses. Keep your nose moist! Use a nasal spray or tea tree oil mist, which is a natural antibiotic. Doing so will prevent your nose from drying up and cracking your skin, letting in micro-organisms.
Next time you fly, make sure to follow a few of these simple tips. They’ll take a few minutes of your time but can help prevent any unwanted health issues.