Read our guide to wellness during your flights, including common problems such as flying anxiety, jet-lag, ear pain and DVT. Complete with travel flying tips to prevent problems when flying.
Flying can be a stressful and worrying time for first-time flyers but also for the most seasoned of travellers. This section provides tips and guidance for avoiding stress and ensuring psychological wellness.
Some people suffer from a fear of flying (aerophobia) which is when people experience extreme worry and increased anxiety when travelling. This can be linked to fear of planes themselves, but also claustrophobia or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). For some people, a fear of flying comes from external factors, such as turbulence or flying through bad weather, but can also come from within the individual and their emotions. To help combat a fear of flying, passengers can consult their doctor, complete fear of flying courses, travel with emotional support animals or have therapy sessions.
Even without anxiety or fear of flying, any passenger can experience increase levels of stress when travelling. You can work to minimise possible stressful experiences you may encounter to make sure you are fully prepared. You can check-in online to reduce the amount of things you need to do when arriving at the airport, perhaps allowing time for some retail therapy with airport shopping. You can also check what items you are allowed to fly with, so that you are not left stressing if you have any prohibited items in your luggage. You can also get a TSA Precheck, or Global Entry, so that you will be able to fast track through security, immigration and customs queues.
When you fly on a plane, there are some conditions that are more common. Find out if you are at risk of them and what you can do to avoid them.
Jet lag is a condition which affects people who have had a disrupted sleep pattern when their body changes sleep patterns. Although sometimes it is unavoidable on long-haul or transatlantic flights, there are certain steps you can follow to reduce the symptoms of jet lag:
Before you travel, ensure you are well-rested and relaxed, trying to gradually enter the sleep pattern of your new destination. For example, if your new destination is in a later time zone, try to go to bed later and wake up later before you travel. You should also avoid excessive exercise, eating large meals and drinking alcohol and caffeine.
On your flight, you can ensure you stay well hydrated, by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol. Although high-quality sleep is not always possible when flying, you can stay rested with eye masks or earplugs. However, you should only sleep if you would be sleeping at that time in your destination. Avoid caffeine as this will make the effects of jet lag worse.
Once you arrive at your destination, try to fit your sleep schedule into the new times of your destination as much as possible. Do this by avoiding sleeping during the day, and setting an alarm in the mornings to avoid oversleeping. Going outside in the natural light during the day will also help your body adjust to the new timezone. If your trip is for less than 3 days, it may be beneficial to not adjust your body during this time, and stay on home time to avoid having to adjust your body clock twice.
Jet lag is natural to experience, and doesn’t usually require any medication or medical attention. The symptoms, which include difficulty sleeping, tiredness, concentration and indigestion, will usually disappear after a few days once your body has gotten used to the times of the new destination. Passengers can also choose to fly on a more modern plane, such as the Airbus A380 which has mood lighting which is reported to minimise jet lag.
Due to the air filtering systems on planes, and harsh air conditioning systems, your skin can sometimes feel the dehydrating effects of flying. There are certain things you can do to minimise these effects:
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is the clotting of blood within a deep vein in the body, usually in the legs. This usually occurs when sedentary for large periods of time, which restricts the flow of blood in the legs, such as when travelling by plane. People are not usually at risk on short-haul flights, but instead on longer-haul of flights of eight hours or more.
Although anyone is at risk of developing a DVT, people with the following conditions are at an increased risk of developing a DVT:
If you are affected by any of these conditions, or are worried about your risk regarding DVT, you should seek your GP or doctor’s advice before travelling to check you are safe to fly.
When travelling, you can follow some simple steps to reduce the risk of developing DVT on a plane:
Ear pain when flying is normal and affects most people, but some cases can be more severe and more painful. It happens due to the rapid changes in altitude when flying, which changes the pressure in your ear. Although your ears would normally adjust to the changes in pressure, it happens too quickly, at a rate your ears can’t adjust to. This can cause discomfort and pain in some people, with some people reporting muffled hearing or stuffiness in ears.
Tips to correct and prevent ear pressure building up:
Babies and children are more subject to the pain and discomfort from not being able to relieve the built up pressure inside their ears, as they are unable to follow the above steps to reduce the pressure. Tips for helping them relieve pain and pressure include giving them a drink of water or a sweet to encourage swallowing, try encourage them to yawn, and keep them awake for takeoff and landing. For more information about flying with children, read this page.
To avoid catching common colds or viruses in planes, you can follow these tips to avoid the likelihood of catching one:
Having a bad back can be uncomfortable and painful at the best of times, and going on a plane can often make it worse because you are sitting in confined spaces for a long period of time. There are some things that you can do to alleviate any aches or pains you have when flying with a bad back:
Stay healthy and boost your immune system with some fresh fruit if you are allowed to bring it on the plane with you. Alternatively, order a healthy in-flight meal to have on your plane.
Drink less alcoholic beverages on the plane, and instead buy it at duty-free in the airport and package it up to enjoy at your destination.
Each seat has different benefits; seats next to window has less contact with everyone else, but aisle seat means that you can get up and walk. Select your preference when you book a seat with Alternative Airlines.
As mentioned, the information on this page is for guidance and general advice only. Each individual is different and should seek their doctor’s advice before travelling if they are concerned about their health. You should also ask your doctor's advice about any travel vaccinations you may need for the country you are travelling to.
Drinking plenty of water is always good for you, so be sure to stay hydrated when flying as you are more subject to dehydration which causes a variety of problems.