The importance of inflight blood circulation and muscle relaxation
When walking , the leg muscle action helps return venous blood to the heart. Sitting in the same position for a long period of time can slow this process and, in some people, leads to swelling in the feet.
Some studies have shown that immobility associated with travel of longer than four hours (by car, rail or air ) can also lead to an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis ( DVT ) , or clotting in the legs.
Personal factors that increase the risk of DVT include
- Age over 40
- Personal or family history of DVT or pulmonary embolism
- Recent surgery or injury, especially to the lower limbs, pelvis or abdomen.
- Inherited or other blood disorders leading to clotting tendency.
- Oestrogen therapy , hormone replacement or oral contraceptive pill.
There are a number of ways to help reduce the possibility of DVT , including the following:
- Avoid leg-crossing whilst seated.
- Ensure adequate hydration.
- Minimise alcohol and caffeine intake before and during your flight.
- Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes.
- During your flight, move your legs and feet for three to four minutes an hour whilst seated and move about the cabin occasionally.
- Do light exercises usually found in the in flight magazine.
If you have concerns about your health and flying, or feel that you may be at risk of DVT, we recommend you talk to your doctor before travelling. Additional measures such as well fitting compression stockings or anti clotting medication may be recommended for high risk individuals.
Unlike other forms of transport, air travel allows for rapid movement across many time zones, which can disrupt the bodies biological clock. This is commonly know as jet lag.
This disruption can affect various body rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle and the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as tiredness and lack of energy and appetite. In general, the more time zones crossed, the more symptoms you will experience after the journey.
I would recommend the following to minimise the effects of jet lag.
Before your flight:
- Get a good nights sleep.
During your flight
- Eat light meals.
- Wear loose , comfortable clothing and sleep when you can.
- Stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water and avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.
At your destination:
- If possible, give yourself a day or two after arrival to adjust to new time zone.
- Go out in the daylight and do some light exercise.
- Try to eat meals and do other social activities at the appropriate destination times to the new time zone.
Cabin humidity and hydration.
Humidity levels of less than 25% are common in the cabin, as the outside air that supplies the cabin is very dry. The low humidity can cause drying of the surfaces of the nose, throats and eyes and it can irritate contact lenses. If normal fluid intake is maintained during the flight, dehydration will not occur.
I would recommend:
- Drink water and juices frequently during the flight
- Drink tea, coffee and alcohol in moderation
- Remove contact lenses and wear glasses
- Use a skin moisturiser to refresh the skin.
During flight, aircraft cabin pressure is maintained to a sufficient density for your comfort and health. As the aircraft climbs , the cabin may reach the same air pressure as at an elevation of 2,440 metres above sea level.
Cabin pressure does not pose a problem for most passengers. However if you suffer from obstructive pulmonary diseases, anaemias or certain cardiovascular conditions, some could experience discomfort at these altitudes.These passengers should seek medical advice before flying , as some may require supplementary oxygen.
Medical Repatriations can arrange this but but we need at least 48 hours notice before travelling. The rate of change in cabin pressure during climb and descent is also carefully maintained and does not usually cause discomfort. However , children and infants, and adults who have sinus or nasal congestion may experience some discomfort because of pressure changes during the climb and particularly descent.
Those suffering from nasal or sinus congestion because of a cold or allergies may need to delay travel.
The following advice may assist:
- To clear your ears , try swallowing, yawning or pinching your nose and gently blowing against it. These actions help open the Eustachian tubes, equalising pressure between the middle ear chamber and the throat.
- If flying with an infant, feed or give your baby a dummy during descent. Sucking and swallowing help equalise pressure in the infants ears. Give children something to drink or chew during descent.
- Consider using medication such as nasal sprays, decongestants and antihistamines minutes prior to descent to help open up your ears and sinus passages.
Air travel, especially if turbulence is experienced, can cause motion sickness, as it leads to a conflict between the body’s sense of vision and its sense of equilibrium. Maintaining good visual cues (keeping your eyes fixed on a non moving object ) helps prevent motion sickness.
When the weather is clear, you should look out at the ground, sea or horizon. If the horizon can’t be seen, closing your eyes and keeping your head movements to a minimum will help.
While over the counter medications are available, we recommend you consult your doctor about appropriate medications for your own circumstances.
Should you wish to receive any personal advice, please feel free to email us on our email address.
Please leave adequate time between asking for advice and your dates of travel.