What Happens To Your Body When You Fly And How To Beat The Pain 2 of 2
This is the biggest issue for most travellers and the most controversial on health grounds. Apart from the sheer discomfort of minimal legroom - cramps, neck cricks and so on - long periods of immobility lead to a higher risk of DVT, and the risks may be greater at lower pressure.
DVT occurs when blood in the lower leg flows sluggishly and eventually clots, causing pain and swelling in the short term and a risk of sudden death from clots reaching the heart or lungs.
- Buy as much legroom as you can afford
- Wear comfortable, non-restricting clothes.
- Get up and walk around the cabin at least once every hour and exercise in your seat either by alternately tensing and relaxing your calf muscles or by using a specially designed exerciser such as the Aerogym or Push-Cush. These are two-chambered air-pillows that you push with your feet, squeezing air back and forth from one side to the other.
- Avoid crossing your legs, or keeping the same position for a prolonged period. • Don’t take sleeping pills unless you are able to sleep in a horizontal position.
- Consider wearing compression stockings such as the Mediven travel stocking, which increase the pressure around the lower leg and help to prevent clots forming.
FATIGUE AND STRESS
Being unable to sleep properly is one of the worst frustrations. It can be made worse by the inevitable stresses of travel and fear of flying. The solution Try to book day-time flights whenever possible. Make a conscious effort to keep calm and relaxed - give yourself plenty of time to check in, for example. Eat only a light meal before trying to sleep. Try an inflatable neck support to avoid cricks. Be wary of sleeping pills (see opposite).
As a rough guide, for each time zone you cross where the clock moves forward or back by an hour, it takes about a day for your body’s natural rhythm to re-adjust to the change. After a long flight you can be left feeling ill, disorientated and unable to keep awake during the day, or you may find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night. Some people suffer more than others, but few of us escape entirely. The farther east or west you fly, the worse you are likely to feel, though many people believe that the shortened nights that you suffer when flying west to east make things worse.
- Some of the advice for avoiding fatigue, such as taking day flights where possible, and avoiding heavy meals just before trying to sleep, also applies to dealing with jet lag. But there are other things you can do.
- Avoid the problem altogether - if you are simply looking for winter sun, for example, choose destinations in Spain, Portugal or western/ southern Africa, which are within the same or similar time zones to the UK
- Fly in a westerly direction when travelling around the world - but try not to nap during flights or you might have difficulty sleeping when you arrive
- Set your watch to the new time when you board the plane - it helps you start adjusting as early as possible.
- On arrival, try to keep awake until bedtime, and try to stay in bed until it is time to get up. Sleeping pills might help you adjust if taken at the right time.
- Some people believe that the hormone melatonin (which can be bought in the United States in health food shops but is not available in Britain) helps them sleep better and adjust to new time zones more quickly.
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