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Airline Travel Health Information

Tips to Aid in Dealing with Air Travel's Effects On You Jet Lag

Jet lag is caused when you travel through multiple time zones. These changes in time zones confuse your body's 24-hour inner clock, which throws off your "circadian rhythms." Your circadian rhythms control the timing of the release of hormones and chemicals to let you know when you should be hungry, sleepy, etc. Symptoms of Jet lag include fatigue, insomnia, disorientation, headaches, and irregularity. It normally takes about one day to adjust for each time zone you cross. Jet lag is often worse traveling eastward. Flying north or south within the same time zone does not cause jet lag. Your overall health, habits, and age play a big part in how badly you get jet lag. Being well rested can help reduce jet lag symptoms. Overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol can exaggerate jet lag. Tips for dealing with Jet Lag:

  • Exercise while airborne and upon arrival will help circulate your blood you will feel rejuvenated.

  • Adjust your sleep time before you leave on your trip to match your destination time zone.

  • Don't stay on your home time zone. Change your watch to your destination time zone.

  • Meals high in protein stimulate wakefulness. Carbohydrate rich meals promote sleep.

  • Use caffeine drinks to help you stay awake until your new bedtime at your destination.

  • Eat high-fiber foods to fight constipation and avoid fatty foods.

  • Drink LOTS of water.

Ear Pain During airplane flights the ears are subjected to changes in air pressure. The middle ear is connected with the upper part of the throat by the Eustachian tube. Its job is to equalize air pressure in the middle ear. People often have more problems during landing. If the Eustachian tube is blocked from cold or allergies the eardrum will be stretched inward, impairing hearing and causing pain during descent. If you can't clear your ears on the ground, you should not fly. But if you have to fly, or find yourself with ear pain once airborne, there are some things you can do. Tips for dealing with Ear Pain:

  • Try yawning or swallowing to open the Eustachian tube.

  • Try chewing gum.

  • With a doctor's approval, adults can take a decongestant and/or nasal spray.

  • You might try earplug-like devices called Earplanes, which help regulate air pressure naturally.

  • Try the Valsalva maneuver: Hold your nose and blow out gently to equalize the pressure.

Young children's Eustachian tubes don't function as good as in adults. Use a pacifier or bottle for babies during takeoffs and landings. Older children won't suffer quite as much as long as they don't have a cold. Motion Sickness Most airline passengers rarely experience motion sickness. Motion sickness can occur when you lose visual contact with the earth's horizon and you are subjected to motion such as turbulence or the plane turning. This can cause the inner ear to send conflicting information to the brain. Anxiety can also exaggerate the symptoms of motion sickness. This online resource can help ease your anxiety. Tips for dealing with Motion Sickness:

  • Try sitting near the plane's wings. This will reduce the motion felt.

  • Try over the counter medications such as Dramamine or Bonine for short trips.

  • Try Ginger (capsule form) and peppermint (mint-flavored candies).

  • Eat lightly before and during your flight.

  • Sit at a window seat.

  • Don't read.

  • Open your air vent.

Other Airline Travel Health Advice

  • Try not to fly within twelve hours after dental work because the change in cabin pressure can be painful.

  • Avoid eating empty calories. They can cause a swing in your blood sugar, which will affect how you feel.

  • Avoid drinking much alcohol. It doesn't take much at altitude to get drunk.

  • Carry a summary of your health info. Include items such as: blood type, pre-existing health conditions, allergies, etc.

Some researchers claim that bismuth subsahcylate (Pepto-Bismol) can help prevent "Montezuma's Revenge" (Diarrhea caused by drinking contaminated water).


This information is not intended to and does not in any way substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any condition or health questions you may have. Neither the content posted on this website nor any service offered or product sold by or through this website is intended to be or should be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard the advice of your health care provider or delay seeking such advice due to anything you have read.