Air travel has many different objectives, such as leisure, work, and other activities. However, when we fly regularly and generally at high altitudes, our body tends to react differently than what we are accustomed to.
Inside an aircraft we are confined to a small, dry, vibrating, noisy, and often pressurized space (common in high-performance jets and turbo-props, where the cabin is pumped with air to keep the atmosphere and density more similar to conditions on the ground). Our body suffers from the difference in environments, even flying in a large modern aircraft, and even more so when flying regularly.
Side effects, such as jet lag on long-haul trips – where the constant changing of time zones confuse our biological clock and consequently affect our health – are harmful to our body. Once you understand these problems, how can you minimize and often avoid them? Check out this list with tips and suggestions to help your next airway be more enjoyable.
Many high-noise aircraft have headphones so passengers can communicate with each other and eliminate some of the cabin noise. However, if you fly in an aircraft that doesn’t have headphones, consider investing in a good noise-canceling headset, such as BOSE or SEINHEISER models (values ranging from US $200 to US $500*).
Both brands feature active noise canceling, which, once connected, isolates the sound coming from the motors and provides more peace of mind to relax or work. They are also very comfortable and fit easily to the size of the head. The models can be made with leather, foam, and aluminum, making them light and easy to use even for sleeping. *Average prices in 2019 for models with noise cancellation.
When reaching high altitudes, the aircraft often doesn’t have great humidity and the air entering the cabin is dry and cold. Modern aircraft have air heating cabins and humidification systems, but if we are flying on a commercial flight or a smaller aircraft, we must be sure to stay hydrated. Remember to drink water regularly throughout the flight and make constant use of moisturizing creams. Very long trips tend to dry out the skin, the lips, the eyes, and the mucosa of the nose. Remember to use moisturizing products, nose serum, and eye drops at intervals of 3 to 4 hours, in order to minimize the effects of dryness.
Intercontinental trips lasting 8 to 12 hours can be exhausting for the legs and body. To avoid injury to the muscles, since we spend a good deal of time sitting, stand up at different intervals throughout the trip. If possible, walk around the cabin every 2 to 3 hours and stretch. Try stretching your legs and arms and stand for 10 to 15 minutes to improve circulation. This practice can make all the difference when returning to your seat, leaving you with renewed energy to go back to work or finish that movie!
Internal cabin pressure
As mentioned earlier, many aircraft have an internal pressurizing system to improve cabin atmospheric conditions and oxygen circulation for all on board. In commercial airplanes, there is a limitation of pressurization due to long aircraft dimensions, making the amount of oxygen in the cabin smaller than on the ground. In aerial paths like this, the journey can be extremely tiring. Therefore, remember when flying long distances to choose an aircraft with low “CABIN ALTITUDE”. Thus, the pressurizing will be greater, keeping the condition of the cabin even more similar to the atmospheric condition of the ground and, consequently, making the flight calmer and passengers more relaxed.
Arriving refreshed to your destination is priceless when you are traveling for business or pleasure, and allows you to get ready for your tasks, saving you from a long period of post-flight rest.
One of the greatest problems we can have in a pressurized airplane is BAROTRAUMA, a trauma caused in the middle ear by the pressure difference, which, in some cases, can lead to deafness. How to avoid it? We can start with the simple decision not to fly with congested airways, as the accumulation of phlegm in the nose and ear can cause extremely strong pain and lead to serious problems.
If flying is necessary, the use of nasal decongestants and medications is recommended (important: consult a physician prior to use of medications). In addition, it is also advised to avoid blowing your nose with too much force in an attempt to unclog it, as this action can generate more pressure and make the situation worse. If you feel a difference in pressure at the time of the takeoff and landing, remember to stay calm and make light movements with your jaw, opening and closing your mouth. This way you will equalize the pressure of the middle ear with the pressure of the cabin.
If you are flying with a child or baby, the difference in pressure is perceived by the child’s gesture of putting their hands to their ears, this can be alleviated by the ingestion of liquids, like baby bottles, stimulating movement with the mouth.
Perhaps the greatest villain of long journeys is jet lag, responsible for enormous fatigue. Crossing through 3 or more time zones and reaching the final destination in the daytime when your body feels as it was supposed to be at night, can have great consequences to your health. If you’ve ever been through this scenario, then you know how uncomfortable it can be.
Jet lag can be avoided with simple changes while traveling, such as avoiding sleeping during flight. Try to rest in the local time at night and avoid spending your first day in bed if you arrive in the morning. When you arrive, take a good shower and go out to see the city, take a walk, eat at the local time, and avoid eating between meals. Also remember to drink plenty of water and try not to use medicines to induce sleep or wake up, which can affect your body and make it difficult to adapt to the new local routine.
Simple tips like these can help make your trip more comfortable and relaxing. That way, you will arrive at your next destination ready for any experience that comes your way.
About the Author
Alison Basso is pilot and the crew member of A32F. In the pilot profession since 2015.