It use to be exciting. Getting a lift to the airport use to mean you were going on a holiday. Where? It didnt matter, it was just nice to excape the monotonous 9-5 job, clear your head and do anything but think about the mounting papers that eagerly await your attention; sitting on your desk. These days everyone’s doing it; the red eye, black eye, a one day trip or day one of a bunch of exhausting days interstate, you shuffle along with your little carry bag and away you go.
So what does all this travel mean to our bodies? Will it make the western world a sicker place than it already is?
Unfortunately for frequent flyers there are very few health benefits when flying. Here are the major issues that come with flying:
1) The toxic cabin air can cause drowsiness, headaches, respiratory problems or neurological illnesses.
A 2009 investigation into some of the world’s most popular airlines found high levels of a toxin found in the jet oil fuel had spread into the cabin.
Judith Murawski, a scientist with the US Association of Flight Attendants who studies cabin air contamination, said that the problem is widespread and happens almost daily.
“Your average passenger has no idea that the air that they’re breathing is coming off the engine. Sometimes the engines leak oil and those oils are highly toxic,” Ms Murawski said.
2) Airports= The home of germs.
As soon as one arrives at the airport they are at risk of falling ill.
Dr Deborah Mills from the Travel Medical Alliance says studies have shown almost a third of people don’t wash their hands when going to public toilets at airports.
“The airport toilets are filthy … cold and flu viruses live for at least two days on surfaces,” Dr Mills said.
3) Catching those colds and viruses
The cold and flu spreads like a you wouldn’t believe with a 2004 study finding that travellers are 100 times more likely to catch a cold on a plane than they are in normal daily life.
Dry, recycled cabin air, cramped conditions and fatigue all could contribute to the high rates of infection, the University of Victoria (Canada) study says.
4) Blood clot risks
Frequent flyers have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis in the air.
Researchers found that travel was associated with a nearly three-fold increase in the risk of developing blood clots in the veins, especially in the legs.
If you experience a clot while travelling and it moves towards the lungs it can cause a potentially fatal condition called a pulmonary embolism with the clot risk growing with the length of the trip.
The most common issue with flying, especially long hauls, is dehydration. The human body is most comfortable with 50 percent humidity, and can even survive humidity as low as 25 percent. In-flight, humidity drops to 10 percent and below -drier than a desert! Ohhh, parched as.
Your eyes and skin begin to feel dry, and the rest of the body reacts to the lack of moisture by compensating or adjusting its biochemical levels. Our bodies is made up of over 50 percent water; when that water is depleted every organ is affected, and your entire system is thrown into a spin.
The low pressure inside the aircraft can also cause the nitrogen gas in your body to expand, and may affect the times and dosages of medications. Fingers, ankles and joints can also swell, and you may feel bloated.
The lower oxygen levels in the pressurized air can have the same effects as oxygen deprivation on the ground — light-headedness, difficulty in concentrating, shallow breathing, aches in joints, impaired vision and, believe it or not, loss of mathematical skills.
BUT ladies and gentlemen. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Here are 5 things you can do to fix it.
- Be active
Being active and taking walks around the plane while flying will help reduce the chances of DVT. A few stretches would work wonders as well!
- Keep hydrated
Get that water into you! The flight attendants will generally offer you a water (thats the smallest thing you’v eever seen) so ask them for a couple of bottles! Remember, being dehydrated won’t just make you feel uncomfortable, it will affect how your body functions, including the strength of your immune system. Avoid drinks which have a diuretic effect like tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Boost your immune system
Before you jet set, do what you can to strengthen your immune system. Stress is one of the major causes of a weakened immune system so try to minimize it! Make sure you get plenty of rest before the flight and consider taking immunity-boosting supplements like Vitamin C and Echinacea. Avoid any sugary or fatty foods as they will work to slow down and weaken your immune system.
- Avoid germs
Your stepping foot into the breeding ground for gems and with travelers from all over the world you’re likely to be exposed to some goodies! Minimise your chances of these germs by giving your hands a good old fashion scrub when you leave the bathroom and use the paper towel to dry them! You can also carry a hand sanitizer with you.
- Take care of your back
Seats on the plane aren’t really made for the support of your back. So be careful when your on the plane for an extended period of time that you don’t put your back at risk of injury, strain or discomfort by sitting incorrectly. Even if you’ve never had back problems before, take care of your spine while flying and you could prevent a range of unwanted back problems from developing in the future.