How to Stay Healthy on Long Haul Flights

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Vacations are great, immersing yourself in a completely foreign culture is fulfilling and the relaxation achieved from a couple weeks on a far-flung beach rejuvenates the soul. But without the proper preparation, the journey could spoil the destination. Below are tips to maximize your health on your trans-oceanic flight, so when you land you can enjoy the destination, rather than heading straight to the local pharmacy.

1. Skip the Alcohol On-Board
We get it, some people need the liquid courage to sit in a metal tube 35,000 feet in the air. But that elevation is the problem; even with the interior pressurized to about 7,000 feet, it’s still the equivalent of sitting on top of a mountain. And at that height, the air is thinner and you get less oxygen in your blood. Elevation naturally inhibits the absorption of alcohol, so it’s a double whammy, which could have a very negative effect on people with existing blood conditions. A sub-tip is to make sure your flights are on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which pressurizes to a lower altitude.

2. Take a Jog Down the Aisles
Okay, maybe a jog isn’t really feasible, but make sure you don’t stay seated for the entire 9 hours to Europe or 14 hours to Hong Kong. Sitting for that length of time is well-known to cause a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the legs. Make frequent bathroom visits to get the blood flowing from the short walk, wear loose clothing in breathable fabrics which won’t constrict veins and take a low dose aspirin (100-150mg) during and for three days after the flight booking to improve blood flow.

3. Offset the Lack of Humidity On-Board
As best you can obviously, which is a corollary to the skip the booze tip above. Humidity inside an airplane at full elevation can be as low as 2% (versus the normal human comfort levels of 30-65%) which can lead to headaches, dizziness, susceptibility to infection and dehydration. Crowded flights are actually better for this reason as the breathing from more people creates up to 20% humidity. Other than that, once you’ve checked in with your airline tickets, make sure to bring copious amounts of water with you on your flights, 1-2 cups per hour being ideal.

4. Don’t Sleep Through the Landing
As the plane approaches the landing zone, the pressure inside the cabin drops from the equivalent of 7,000 feet to zero in about 20 minutes. Your ears will pop and if you have a stuffed head from a cold, the worst-case scenario is a ruptured ear drum, and normal pressure equalization isn’t possible. To best avoid this, chew, yawn, swallow or suck on some candy to clear the pipes. If that doesn’t succeed, try the Valsalva maneuver: hold your nose, keep your mouth shut and forcefully exhale.

Short of first or business class, all of us will have to deal with the cramped conditions of cheap airline tickets from modern air travel. Employing the above tips can mitigate the worst effects of long-haul flights and leave you feeling in your optimal state of health upon reaching your destination, helping you enjoy to the fullest that which you’ve planned and saved for.

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