Traveling by plane can seem exciting, a new adventure and new sites to see but for many people including myself we can experience some form of discomfort or sickness when traveling by plane. Dry mouth, aching limbs, lower back pain, swollen ankles, severe calve pain — they’re apart of the experience of traveling on a plan for some. In fact, these symptoms are caused by the very environment you’re traveling in. That means there’s nothing you can do to eliminate these issues entirely, but you can take a few steps in the right direction.
Cabin pressure creates an environment akin to being 8,000 feet high — comparable to being on a mountain. As a result, it’s not uncommon for sitting and breathing to feel more challenging, and the low humidity means your body can become dehydrated.
Here are some tips that will help ease some of the discomfort when you’re in the air:
1. Drink more water.
Yes, drink more water might equal to more restroom visits. Hydration will help you handle anything air travel sends your way. Water is the most accessible option; you should also avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda. You should drink a bottle of water for every hour you’re in the air; the increased bathroom breaks will offer an additional opportunity to stretch your legs.
2. Drink less alcohol.
A glass of wine at the lounge while you’re waiting for your flight might be temping. Alcohol presents a double threat to airplane wellness. Not only does alcohol make it more difficult for cells to absorb oxygen, which will worsen your altitude symptoms, but it also dehydrates your body faster.
3. Pack for hydration.
Low humidity on planes can be a real problem. While a comfortable indoor humidity is anywhere from 30 to 65 percent, the humidity inside an airplane cabin is only around 10 to 20 percent. This will cause to feel dry or your skin to feel oily, your body will feel better if you pack a good moisturizer for dry skin, facial wipes, and eye drops like saline solution, especially if you wear contact lenses. Just remember to pack a travel size to get past the TSA.
4. Prepare your immune system.
With everything going on in the world you might feel that your immune system is prepared to combat all illness. Getting a cold on a flight isn’t the result of poor air quality or recycled air; it’s more likely due to a combination of excessive germs and your body’s compromised ability to deal with them. Hundreds of people have touched what you’re touching, and everyone is breathing in the same confined space for multiple hours. You can pack disposable wipes for the tray tables, a few days before beginning to take extra vitamin C or airborne, but your best defense is getting rest and staying hydrated.
5. Flex your calves.
I skip the naps on the plan and try to flex my legs as much as I can, a few years ago I had an accident that has left me with a permanent blood clot in my left leg, which makes flying even harder. Immobility can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It’s still unclear whether flying scientifically raises the risk of DVT, but prolonged immobility is unhealthy in any context. However, you only need to contract your calf muscles — for example, by tapping your feet, which also moves the shins, thighs, and hip joints — to get the blood flowing. Walking to the back of the plane or using the restroom are also easy, inconspicuous ways to keep your blood flowing.