15 Ways Flying Can Screw Up Your Body (With Tips To Feel Better)

We’re all in this together during holiday travel, all 200-something of us in this metal torpedo carrying us safely (fingers crossed) to our destination. We’re also all feeling kind of tired, dehydrated, cramped, bloated, and…gassy. Here’s 15 reasons why these things and more certainly have and will happen during a flight, and ways to counteract the discomforts.

Bloody Stumps

When you sit for a long time in the same position, blood is pulled by gravity to coagulate at the tips of your body, namely your hands and feet. This can lead to swelling, even clotting in extreme situations (like if you fly to Australia). Solution: Pick the aisle if you can to carefully stretch out your legs, and get up once an hour for a brisk walk and a stretch.

I Need Water…No, Wine! No…Water!

You’re dehydrated 38,000 feet above the soil because there’s not enough oxygen pumped through the airplane into your body. Actually, the oxygen level circulated through the jet’s cabin is meant to simulate an elevation of 6,000-8,000 feet, so you’re essentially breathing in thin mountain air. Temptation: This lack of blood flow will get you drunker quicker. Solution: No alcohol, more water. Alcohol consumption will quicken your dehydration even more than it does on Earth.

The Direction of your Jet Lag

Flying east to west across the planet is like following the day, and the persistence of sunlight is easier on your body’s adaptation to time change. Flying the opposite direction makes night approach more rapidly, which confuses your body. To sleep or not to sleep, to throw off the inner clock or not? Solution: Always fly to Hawaii (unless you live in Asia).

Flow, River of Blood, Flow!

As aforementioned, the disproportionate way that blood chills out in your stumps will obviously make your circulation less energetic, which will make you just feel plain lethargic, weird, even ill. Solution: Pop an aspirin the day before and the day of your flight. Aspirin helps promote blood flow anyways.

The Tan you Don’t Want

Researchers have found that the increased UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes, therefore more potent and dangerous when streaming through airplane windows, which poorly block out sunlight. Pilots and flight attendants are at twice the risk for melanoma, and have a 42% higher rate of death by the sometimes fatal skin cancer. Solution: Treat it like a day at the beach if you’re a frequent flyer. Rub that cream thick.

Stewardess, the Meatloaf is Bland!

She’ll likely answer: “That’s because your nostril mucus has evaporated due to the dry air, which affects your taste buds and their ability to detect delicious stuff like salt and sugar. At this high altitude, your buds get 30% lazier. How about a side of cardboard?” Solution: Hmmm…nasal spray helps extremely dry nostrils. So does breathing in steam, like from a cup of hot water. Lower your expectations? Eat those figs on the platter you hate so much, you won’t taste them anyways.

Yes, That Smell Is From Me

In a word: Farting. Actually, flatulence to an extent is quite healthy for the necessary expulsion of intestinal from your body. This “flatus” (gas) expands in your intestines when you’re way up there and cabin pressure is dropping. Solution: RealClear has a great suggestion. “To avoid this problem we humbly propose that active charcoal should be embedded in the seat cushion, since this material is able to neutralise the odour. Moreover active charcoal may be used in trousers and blankets to emphasise this effect.” (Realclear.com).

 I’m Shivering With Fear

That’s because you’ve trained yourself to be scared of flying. Solution: Don’t watch the following films: “Alive”, “Fearless”, “United 9/11”, “Snakes on a Plane”, “Final Destination”, “We are Marshall”, “Cast Away”, and especially “Airplane!”

Yes, That Snow is From my Arm

Sorry, I have dry skin, and so will you suffer soon enough! Same as before: it’s a desert in the sky, and the lack of hydration in the air so suddenly will make your skin flake off like it’s the Polar Vortex. Solution: Implement a skin care into your regime a few days before travel, especially increasing the moisturizer application at night. And drink more water in the approaching days.

Yes, That is a Pimple

Your oily skin will pump up the volume to compensate for the lack of moisture in the air. You will talk to that handsome person next to you for six hours and wonder why they don’t ask for your digits when the plane lands. It’s because of that other friend you’ve made while cruising at altitude. Solution: Blot with a tissue often. And go to the bathroom’s mirror every 10 minutes.

 Roses Coming out of my Mouth

Your body slows down all of its functions when high in the air, including saliva production. Dry mouth equals — usually unbeknownst to its victim — stank breath. Solution: Watch yourself, Godzilla. Water, mints, toothbrushing, repeat.

The Empty Stomach Trick

Don’t eat at all before your flight. 16 hours. That’s a demand. A flight attendant’s trick: the inner clock’s urges to eat and sleep are regulated by light. There is another clock which takes control when the body is depleted of food for a time that will be restarted when the grub makes a resurgence. Solution: 16 hours before the plane takes off, don’t eat. Then when you land, eat. Your body will be even more adjusted to the new time zone, therefore less jet lagged.



The Ol’ Ear Poppin’ Gig

It’s usually in that major descent after you’ve survived the gist of the flight when the fun begins, isn’t it? That’s because the inside of your ear has adjusted to the pressure decrease of high altitudes, trapping air inside and causing your eardrums to push out. The air pressure increases as the plane descends, then suddenly pushing your drums inward. When the “pop” happens, that’s the equalization of pressure. Solution: Chewing gum, yawning, even sucking on a cough drop through the flight’s duration will promote swallowing, opening up your Eustachian tube.

But it’s the Opposite of Underwater!

Yep, and you can still get The Bends. Just like rising too high too quickly out of the water after scuba diving can be very dangerous, so can (to a lesser but still alerting degree) rising up in an airplane too soon after the aquamarine activities. Headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness can follow. Solution: Wait 48 hours after scuba diving to end your island vacation.

Thought I’d Just Sleep Off this Head Cold

Having a sinus infection sucks, and when the cabin pressure is fluctuating as the plane begins to drop rapidly from 6,000 feet to the landing strip, your Eustachian tubes will open and close. However, your cold might not make this necessary action effective enough, causing your eardrums to cave inward even more. This can be painful, even in some bad cases cause your drum to burst! Solution: Get a prescription decongestant before the flight.

More from AFKTravel:

Flying in Africa: How Do I Know Which Airlines are Safe?

Secrets Of The Flying Tribe

10 Crazy Things People Tried To Sneak On Planes

This article was originally published November 17, 2014.

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