Happy, Healthy Holidays: Stay Well While Flying

There’s nothing more exciting than hopping on a plane and jetting off to a new place. Travel is good for the mind and good for the soul, it helps us to better understand the world that we live in, and gives us a break from our routines. It allows us to experience new things, and overall is a fantastic use of time and money. But being in an unfamiliar place where you probably don’t speak the language and don’t have the same access to healthcare as you have at home can be a worry for some. Being prepared is key, and that starts with the plane journey. If you have a long flight especially, it’s worth considering some of the following things to keep you happy and healthy for when you arrive at your destination. 

The covid pandemic has had a huge impact on travel, and due to lockdowns or personal fears you might not have been away for some time. While we’ve returned to a ‘new normal’, unfortunately covid hasn’t gone away. Take the same precautions as you would in your day to day life, while you won’t have the space you might like on board, you can opt to wear a mask during the flight if that’s what makes you feel comfortable. Use antibacterial hand gel regularly to help keep all germs at bay, including covid. 

One of the biggest health concerns people have when flying are DVTs, these are deep vein thrombosis blood clots. These can be dangerous, often life threatening since blood clots can move in the body and get stuck in a narrow passageway, cutting off blood supply to organs or the brain. Being immobile for long periods of time (often with restricted space to move around) can cause deep vein blood clots to those who are at risk of getting them. Risk factors include being overweight, being a smoker, being in an older age range or having a pre-existing health condition that causes blood clotting issues. However, this is something that everyone travelling on a long flight should protect themselves against. Get up regularly and walk up and down the aisle, even to the toilet and back. Compression stockings can help as they can encourage your blood vessels to work better. 

Flying is exciting for many, but for others it’s an anxious time. If you’re a nervous flyer then there are some things you can do to make the journey easier. First things first, over the counter herbal remedies such as Rescue Remedy have been shown to be effective in some people. Downloading your favourite movies, books, magazines and Youtube videos onto a tablet could be a good distraction, and you could try some mindfulness and deep breathing exercises. If you’re really struggling you could ask your GP if they can provide a mild sedative or anti anxiety medication. For some people, looking at the stats can help, you have more chance of being in an accident on the way to the airport than you do of being injured in a plane crash! This can help to put things into perspective when it comes to worrying. 

Ears and Hearing
The changes in air pressure when you get on a flight will cause your ears to ‘pop’. For most people, simply sucking a boiled sweet or popping their ears by blowing their nose to equalise the air pressure will be all that’s needed. But for others, especially those who already have ear troubles this can cause issues, from pain through to eardrum perforation. Making sure that your ears are in good condition before flying is a worthwhile step, this means no poking at them with cotton swabs. If you have any signs of infection, even if it’s mild then speak to your GP and make sure this is all cleared up and resolved before you fly. Boiled sweets and lollipops can be a choking hazard to young children, so if you’re flying with a baby or young child you could give them a drink during takeoff and touchdown. The swallowing motion should be enough to equalise ear pressure and prevent any pain or discomfort. For older toddlers and children, have them blow their nose into a tissue which will do the same thing. 

Planes have low humidity, dry cabins and use recycled air, all of which are things that can affect your skin. Not only can they dehydrate the moisture in your skin but they can irritate your dermis and lead to acne and flare up any existing skin issues that you have. While it’s not a life threatening issue, it can be uncomfortable and no one wants to arrive at their destination with their skin looking and feeling in bad condition. There are a few steps you can take to prevent this from happening. First of all, get your skin into the best condition possible before you fly. This means getting breakouts, skin rashes and other dermatitis issues under control either with the right products or medication. Applying a moisturiser before you board or early in your flight will replenish the skin and create a barrier to prevent dryness and dehydration. If you’re on a long flight, you could even apply a face mask and allow it to work its magic for thirty minutes or so, just be sure that no liquids are over 100ml to comply with airport rules. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and aftersun in your suitcase if you’re jetting off to sunnier climes. 

Immune System
Being in a small space with lots of other people over an extended time frame can put you at risk of general illnesses. Coughs and flus, stomach bugs and other infections spread more easily in these conditions. Improving your immune function before you go away can make a difference here, and can be as simple as eating a healthy diet, taking supplements and exercising. Chances are you’ll be doing this before you go on your trip anyway so that you feel confident and energised at your destination. Regularly using hand sanitiser and a face mask are other ways you can protect yourself too if you want to go a step further. 

It’s a myth that you can’t fly during pregnancy, and you can actually fly in most instances up until you’re around eight months pregnant. If you’re a bit later in your pregnancy, do check with your airline first though as some will require a doctors note stating that you’re fit to fly. Regardless of the stage you’re in during your pregnancy, be sure to bring your medical notes with you, and check how you would access any medical help while you’re away if anything were to happen. It might be worth booking a seat which offers some extra leg room if you have a bump, and follow the advice regarding DVTs since these can be more common when you’re expecting. 

Don’t let the idea of illness consume your flight, most people have no issues at all when they’re travelling to and from their destination even in light of the pandemic. However, it’s worth doing some prep and being prepared where you can to maximise your chances of a happy healthy trip.