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Tips on Air Travel

Published on April 12, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on May 1, 2024 at 8:00

The air in an aircraft is dry and cold and the oxygen level and atmospheric pressure are lower than on the ground. These conditions can lead to hypoxia (reduced oxygen in the blood) in some. Gas volumes also expand during takeoff and contract during descent, causing bloating, hyperventilation, and other inconveniences, especially in people who are already more vulnerable because of their health.

Before Your Departure:

  • Inform the airline or travel agency of any special dietary requirements or prohibitions (e.g., salt-free, vegetarian, food allergies, etc.)
  • Eat small meals
  • If you have a cold, suffer from allergies, or are prone to earaches, take a decongestant half an hour before departure and a second decongestant 45 minutes before landing, if the flight exceeds 6 hours
  • If you are prone to nausea when flying, take an antiemetic half an hour before departure
  • Take warm clothes to wear during the flight
  • If you wear contact lenses, take along a rewetting solution

During the Flight:

  • During takeoff and landing, chew a piece of gum or suck on a hard candy (breastfeed or bottle-feed young infants)
  • Drink lots of liquids (but avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages)
  • Eat frequent small meals rather than one or two big meals
  • Flex and rotate ankles frequently and get up periodically to avoid ankylosis (stiffening of the joints)
  • If you feel faint, tilt your seat back and try to sleep

Coach Class Syndrome

This term describes the risk of blood clot formation within a vein (venous thrombosis) during a long flight. The risk is very low and is apparently influenced by the following factors: immobility, dehydration, and decreased air and oxygen pressure within the cabin. Flying in coach, with its narrower seats, is not a factor in itself.

You can limit your risk by following the above-mentioned guidelines during the flight.

People with health conditions (respiratory or circulatory problems, pregnancy) should discuss any air travel plans with their physician who may recommend wearing compression stockings or other precautionary measures. Certain medications predispose users to the formation of a blood clot in a vein. Talk to your pharmacist to see if you are taking any of those medications.

When Not to Fly

Due to the atmospheric conditions in the aircraft, flying may be contraindicated when suffering from certain health conditions:

Health problemRecommendation...
Acute otitis media Do not fly during the first 2 weeks following acute otitis media, use a topical decongestant before take-off and landing.
AnemiaDo not fly if your hemoglobin is less than 75 g/L.
Angina (unstable) Avoid flying because there is an increased risk of ischemia (reduced blood supply to the heart).
Asthma Caution - hypoxia (reduced oxygen in the blood ) worsens symptoms.
Cerebrovascular accident Do not fly during the first 3 weeks following a cerebrovascular accident.
Myocardial infarctionDo not fly during the first 6 weeks following surgery.
Sinusitis Use an oral decongestant 1 hour before landing combined with a topical decongestant.
Surgery - abdominalDo not fly during the first 2 weeks following surgery.
Surgery - headDo not fly during the first week following surgery.
Surgery - internal earDo not fly during the first 2 months following surgery.
Surgery - sinusDo not fly during the first week following surgery.
Surgery - thoracicDo not fly during the first 3 weeks following surgery.

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