Surviving Those Long Flights
We all know the symptoms: a dry throat, sore eyes, stiff back, cramped muscles, throbbing head. It comes from sitting for hours in a cramped seat designed for vertically challenged circus performers, a meal tray that you can`t get down over your stomach when the guy in front rams hit seat back. Plus low humidity ( 0 to 15 percent ) and lack of fresh air -- airlines instruct pilots to turnoff air-conditioning packs to save fuel. Which adds up to feeling that the airline may not be doing all it can to ensure your comfort and health.
Premium cabins, of course, allow you space to stretch out and suffer in comfort. But well-being in the air depends a lot on the quality of air in the cabin (at least 50 percent of which is recirculated). And this can depend on the efficiency of catalytic air filters, which remove harmful ozone ( a short, hard cough is typical of ozone -- along with eye discomfort, nose and throat irritation and headache) and high levels of carbon dioxide. Oxygen shortage can lead to euphoria, behavioral changes, memory impairment and lack of judgment and physical coordination.
There are two issues here, according to Richard Dawood, a London-based specialist in travel medicine and editor of Traveler's Health: the way you feel during the flight and jet lag.
"The two things are completely different," Dawood said. "If you took a 10-hours car journey back home you`d feel much the same -- having been up all night in cramped conditions, all of the environmental things. Jet lag steps in subsequently when your body tries to do things at all the wrong times."
"A lot of the discomfort you feel in the cabin is not due to dehydration through the atmosphere, but because you are stuck n your seat, "Dawood continued. "Dry air is a factor in making your eyes, nasal passages and throat uncomfortable -- but only a minor factor in fluid loss. What happens when you`re setting upright in an incredibly uncomfortable position is squashing the central blood vessels, which makes it more difficult for blood to get back to the heart.
"The effect of that is so shift fluid out of the bloodstream into the tissues where it's not valuable to the circulation. So your feet and legs swell. By the end of the flight you may have about four pounds of fluid that is sequestered in the tissues. Unless you drink water, you are dehydrated by that amount."
Much more alarming is the risk of a blood clot forming the veins of your legs. This can be...