Today we’re going to talk about some of the most common complications of air travel that can cause you pain and wreck your trip. We are also going to give you some tips and tricks to help keep these conditions from occurring.
First, let’s start out with the most common complication, which almost anyone who’s traveled in a plane has been effected by: The common cold. You are 100 times more likely to get a cold flying on an airplane. In fact, as many as 20% of airplane passengers develop respiratory infections while traveling. That is a huge number! One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that many airlines have replaced their filtration systems with HEPA filters which helps drastically. However, the combination of dry air and the possibility of a passenger in the nearby area infecting you is still very high.
So how do you avoid getting a common cold when one of the passengers near you is most likely sick? First of all, your number one defense mechanism against a common cold is to simply wipe down all the surfaces in your immediate area when you first get on the plane with a disinfecting wet wipe. This will help lessen the chances that you will have hand to mouth exposure. Additionally, wash your hands more often or wear gloves improves your chances. You are less likely to put your hands on your mouth or cross contaminate with gloves.
Second is to keep your mucous membranes moist. This is your first line of respiratory defense. So how do you keep the mucous membranes moist? First, stay hydrated! We have all heard we need to drink more water. It turns out that on a plane it is extremely important not just for respiratory defense, but dehydration can lead to fatal and painful complications during air travel.
So, how does hydration help avoid the common cold? Moist mucous membranes filter air much better than dry ones. Actually, it is 100 times more effective if moist so hydration is extremely important. Turns out that when we are born, we are actually close to 60% water. As we make it into old age our water levels decrease by approximately 50%. In fact, a lot of the effects of aging are directly due to dehydration of the skin, joints, and organs.
Your body functions better when it is hydrated! Water is critical for every cell membrane to function properly. Those membranes act as a sort of respiratory system for the internal cells. Every chemical reaction within the body requires water. So, to stay young and healthy, drink more water!
One of the other things we can do to keep the mucous membranes moist is to wear a mask. Although many mask do not have great filtration capabilities, Masks will actually help to keep the mucous membranes more hydrated in really dry situations. You may also consider lightly dampening your mask before wearing to add to the moisture.
Another important hydration tip which may be unpopular is to reduce your alcohol intake while flying. Alcohol dehydrates your body at a much quicker rate. A great rule of thumb to follow is drink at least one glass of water for each hour of your flight and an additional glass for each alcoholic drink that you consume.
In case you are unlucky and catch a cold, I recommend that you have a Z pack on hand just in case it turns out that you get a bacterial respiratory infection. It is always nice to be prepared. Most doctors will prescribe it as a prophylactic to be used when necessary. It is important to remember when taking antibiotics that you must take a full course and take as guided. I do recommend that you consult your physician ahead of time so that you have them on hand. They can be tricky to find once your travels begin.
Pack Light - Avoid Back Pain!
So let’s move onto the second most common complication: back pain! Around 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. Approximately 8% of airplane travelers will develop some form of back pain either from lifting too heavy of luggage compounded by the stress of traveling or simply the bad airline seats. Having your back go out when you are traveling is the worst feeling and usually easily avoidable.
The first tip starts with being more organized when packing. Lay everything out before you start packing a suite case. Try not to bring duplicates of heavy items. Bringing every beautiful thing you have may actually cause you pain. Bringing less items lightens up the bags which means less stress when lugging your luggage around especially your overhead bags.
Putting your bags in the overhead creates a lot of pressure on your spine! Most people don’t know that standing creates 100kg of pressure in the spine while sitting is about 150kg. But when bending and lifting something overhead, it creates 220kg of pressure on the spine. Shockingly, the most amount of pressure forced on the spine is caused when you are seated and trying to bend and lift. This creates 275kg of pressure! Of course, the more weight you lift causes those numbers to go up exponentially. So for your back’s sake, use some restraint when contemplating that extra pair of shoes.
One thing you should pack is Dr Bradley’s RX Nano 40 Pain Serum. It works amazing for back sprains, arthritis and generally stiff backs after sitting long hours in the uncomfortable seats. Nano 40 works immediately to reduce aches and pains and last hours to provide continuous relief.
The final complication of the air travel that we need to discuss is blood clots. Obviously, blood clots become more prevalent when your circulation is restricted, but they also become more prevalent when sitting still for over four hours. In fact, the risk goes up dramatically. As many as 1 to 2 people per thousand develop a blood clot when immobilized for over 4 hours while traveling.
Blood clots are extremely painful. They often take up to a week to manifest and once they come on, the symptoms can vary. They can be anything from immobilizing to causing a stroke which is a severe complication.
There are things that you can do to avoid a blood clot. The number one is to stay hydrated. We already talked about how important that is, but hydration helps determine blood volume. More hydration leads to thinner blood making it less likely for your blood to clot. Remember to follow the rule of drinking one glass of water per hour.
Secondly, you can wear flight hose. Hose will prevent too much blood from pooling down in the legs which is the most common place for blood clots to form.
We also recommend for flyers to perform certain movements every hour during the flight. A simple movement that can be accomplished in your seat are cash pumps. These are done by simply dorsiflexing and plantarflexing your foot meaning pulling your toe back and pushing it out 10 to 20 times. This action will help create circulation. If you have the option, getting up and walking down the aisle a couple of times is a great way to avoid a blood clot as well.
There is no reason to carry any prescription medication with you if you do not have a history of clotting, but there are over the counter medications that can help with prevention. If you don’t have any abdominal issues, travelers can take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol. These prophylactic medications will help thin the blood and avoid clotting. As always, please take only as prescribed on the bottle. If you are higher risk you may consider traveling with a medication called lovenox. Lovenox can be self-injected into your stomach if you are at a real high risk of blood clots. Please consult a physician before taking.
That sums up our tips and tricks to prevent the physical pitfalls of travel. Our team at Dr. Bradley’s RX hopes you have an amazing vacation and business travel.
We will be releasing a number of different self-help tips for ultimate health. These have been accumulated from 40 years of medical experience assisting patients stay at their optimal levels of health helping patients look younger, feel younger, and be able to do more. Thanks again for listening and watching. Have a great day.