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Flight health

Flight health
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A healthy flight is a comfortable flight. Follow our advice as you take to the air.

Journeys by air are an almost unavoidable part of modern international travel. Unless you can shell out for first class seats, you will have to put up with cramped conditions that can result in an uncomfortable flight, particularly if you have a long journey. But you can alleviate some of the discomforts by following our advice.

Keep hydrated

Aircraft cabins are notorious for their dry air. Use lip balm and moisturiser to keep your skin feeling comfortable and sip plenty of water. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks are best avoided, as they can make dehydration worse. If you are hoping to avoid trips to the toilet by restricting your intake of fluids, think again. Those walks up and down the cabin are actually good for you because they can help reduce your risk of…

Deep vein thrombosis

Thinking about a life-threatening condition such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) will probably not make your flight comfortable – but air travellers on long-haul flights should be aware of the symptoms.

DVT, a life-threatening blood clot in the leg, may have no symptoms – but when they do occur, they include:

  • calf pain, often a heavy ache that gets worse if you bend your foot up towards your knee
  • warm skin near the clot
  • red skin at the back of the leg below the knee

If you suspect you have a DVT, get medical advice. Do not wait until you get home.

You can reduce your risk of DVT by wearing fitted flight stockings, staying hydrated and by taking a walk up and down the cabin every hour or so. Read more about DVT in our travel advice article.

Prevent jet lag

Jet lag is a disruption to sleep patterns caused by travel. Symptoms include:

  • insomnia at night and being sleepy or tired during the day
  • nausea and loss of appetite
  • bowel problems, such as constipation
  • general unwellness

You may be able to tolerate the change of time zone better if you have a relaxed journey: allow yourself plenty of time, and rest well before you leave. The other in-flight wellbeing tips in this article will also reduce stress and help you to avoid jetlag. Think about breaking a long journey with a layover. A 45-minute nap at your normal bedtime on a flight can really help, too. Once you reach your destination, give yourself a few days to recover, and jump straight into the new rhythm by eating and sleeping at local times, rather than when your body is telling you to.

Stay comfortable

Wear comfortable clothing for your flight. Tight waistbands can become unbearable after a few hours, so go for loose, thin layers rather than bulky clothing. You may find yourself too hot or too cold on the flight, and you can easily peel off or put on thin layers as needed. Don’t forget a pair of warm socks if you suffer from cold feet. You can take even more control of your environment by screening out unwanted light and noise with an eye mask and some ear plugs.

For more ideas, see NHS Fit for Travel’s advice on Air travel.