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What Happens To Your Body When You Fly And How To Prepare For It

Flying to new destinations can be fun (not for the ones with aviophobia). But did you know that flying in an aeroplane can affect your body is so many different ways? Apart from the 'fun' you are having while flying - food tastes better and watching the sun go down the horizon from your windows is indeed mesmerising - flying can affect your energy levels, dry out your skin and cause discomfort in your body.

Apart from the huge carbon emission traces caused by these air vessels, according to studies, travelling in a flight can negatively affect your health because the temperature, pressure and oxygen levels in the cabin fluctuate and the humidity level up in the sky is lower than it is at sea level [1] [2] .

Most of us, probably all of us may have undergone unpleasant symptoms such as swollen ankles or closed ears. If you are a constant traveller (by flight), scroll down to read about the different ways flight travel can affect your body and how you can prepare for it.

How Airplane Travel Can Affect Your Body And How To Prepare For It

1. Dehydrates you

Due to the low humidity levels in aeroplanes, studies point out that, a man can lose up to 8.5 cups of water and a woman can lose up to 6.8 cups of water on an average 10-hour flight. This can further cause constipation, bloating, cloudy urine and severe headaches [3] .

What to do

Keep yourself hydrated by carrying an empty water bottle that can be refilled. The tiny juice bottles and water bottles available in-flight can be expensive and will not quench your dehydration.

2. Dries up your skin

With a humidity level of 20 per cent, aeroplanes cause your skin to dry up and studies point out that using a moisturiser is not effective because of the extremely low humidity levels.

What to do

Use skin moisturising products that contain hyaluronic acid and apply it before the flight to avoid your skin from breaking out.

3. Increases your stress level

One of the common 'side effects' of travelling, it is normal that travelling increases people's stress levels, studies point out. Even before you step into the flight, your stress levels can hike - thinking about the time spent in the closed space. Stressors such as slow-moving baggage claims, flight delays and turbulences are some of the reasons [4] .

What to do

Begin by planning. Make sure you leave an extra 20 minutes early and carry your medications and other valuables in a carry-on bag.

4. Drains your energy

With the air pressure being low at higher altitudes, your body will be taking in less amount of oxygen in comparison to the usual levels. As airlines pressurise the air in the cabin, the limited amount of oxygen available to you drain your energy and even cause you to develop breathing difficulties [5] .

What to do

Drink up, hydrating yourself can be helpful in this case. If you are feeling too wound up, get up and walk around (only when it is safe to) and stretch your limbs. You can stretch by picking your feet off the ground and flexing and also pointing your toes to keep the blood flowing.

5. Bloats you up

Being immobile for a long time may result in the development of blood clots in the deep veins of your legs. It can cause swelling, pain and leave your leg all bloated up. Apart from that, aeroplane travel can also cause stomach bloating because the change in pressure levels cause the gas inside your stomach and intestines to expand - leaving you to feel bloated overall [6] .

What to do

For your legs, try to stand up or take short walks in the cabin, when it is possible. And for your stomach, before your flight, avoid consuming foods that can cause gas such as burgers, fries or chips (basically anything with oil and fried) and eat lightly.

6. Puts stress on your ears

All of us who have travelled by air are no strangers to this extremely uncomfortable sensation of your ears popping, while the flight takes off and lands. This sensation is also known as aeroplane ear which is caused due to the difference in the air pressure in the environment and the air pressure in your middle ear [6] [7] .

What to do

Yawn or swallow to open the eustachian tubes, which control the pressure in the middle ear when the sensation develops [8] .

Some of the other ways aeroplane travel can affect your body are mentioned below [9] [10] .

● Affects your taste buds and the ability to perceive saltiness and sweetness drops a 30 per cent.
● You face can puff up after the journey.
● Your chances of falling sick increases.
● Minor toothaches can become severe due to air pressure.
● Can cause backaches and neck stiffness.

So, the next time you are gearing up for a journey up in the air, consider the aforementioned facts to avoid any possible difficulties.

View Article References
  1. [1] Silverman, D., & Gendreau, M. (2009). Medical issues associated with commercial flights. The Lancet, 373(9680), 2067-2077.
  2. [2] White, R. J. (1998). Weightlessness and the human body. Scientific American, 279(3), 58-63.
  3. [3] Kammen, D. M., & Hassenzahl, D. M. (2018). Should we risk it?: Exploring environmental, health, and technological problem solving. Princeton University Press.
  4. [4] Vink, P. (2016). Aircraft interior comfort and design. CRC press
  5. [5] Benson, H. (2019). The mind body effect. Simon and Schuster
  6. [6] Fowler, P., Duffield, R., & Vaile, J. (2015). Effects of simulated domestic and international air travel on sleep, performance, and recovery for team sports. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 25(3), 441-451.
  7. [7] Anderson, J. (2015). Exploring the consequences of mobility: Reclaiming jet lag as the state of travel disorientation. Mobilities, 10(1), 1-16.
  8. [8] Fullagar, H. H., Duffield, R., Skorski, S., White, D., Bloomfield, J., Kölling, S., & Meyer, T. (2016). Sleep, travel, and recovery responses of national footballers during and after long-haul international air travel. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(1), 86-95.
  9. [9] Heers, A. M. (2018). Flight and locomotion. Ornithology: foundation, analysis, and application (ML Morrison, AD Rodewald, G. Voelker, MR Colón, and JF Prather, eds.), 273-308.
  10. [10] Poria, Y., & Beal, J. (2017). An exploratory study about obese people’s flight experience. Journal of Travel Research, 56(3), 370-380.
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