Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Plane Truth About Your Health

Air travel is clearly the safest means of travel. More people travel safely on these big birds than in cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and trains. That should tell the whole truth, but it doesn't. Where else in your life are you seated within spitting distance of 180 other people who may, or may not, be ill?

You can probably concede that there's nothing you could do in the case of engine failure or some sort of hostile takeover of an airplane in flight. That's okay because these incidents are so very, very rare. What you can do is help prevent getting sick or infecting others by following these simple steps and tips.

Understanding the Air Up ThereYou shouldn't be surprised that the air at 35,000 feet is much different than on the ground, even if you live in the Mile High City at 5000+ feet above sea level. To start with, you will likely feel thirstier than you would on the ground. That's because the filtration of the air, in an attempt to keep it clean, removes all particles, including moisture from the air in the cabin.

The pressure, even in a pressurized cabin, will feel heavier to some than to others. It is important to yawn often or plug your nose and mouth and GENTLY blow out. This will help "pop" your ears, allowing them to adjust to the pressure in the plane.

To Fly or Not to Fly
Those suffering with a cold, flu or other airborne virus or bacteria are urged not to fly if at all possible. Not only are you putting 180 of your fellow passengers at risk, you are likely to feel worse during the flight than at home, resting. If you absolutely must fly sick, consider wearing a hospital mask to keep your germs to yourself. For comfort, take a decongestant soon before boarding and rub the inside of your nose with petroleum jelly to avoid the lining of your nose from drying out in the dehydrated air. Also, keep your medicines with you in your travel bag – do not check them – if at all possible.

If you've been under the knife recently and still have stitches or sutures that have not healed completely, flying could set back your recovery considerably. The pressure may cause unnecessary stress on your wounds and cause them to reopen. Always contact your doctor before flying post-operatively.

Should you foresee the possibility of being under the weather or post-operative before making your flight reservations, consider purchasing travel insurance. It is almost always more expensive to buy new tickets or change your old ones if you do not have travel insurance in place.

Cocktails, Anyone?
For some, the experience of flying includes a cocktail or two. Understand that your blood oxygen level decreases in flight, so the concentration of one glass worth of wine is heavier than on the ground. While a gin and tonic may not make you loopy at home, it will likely have the effect of one and a half or even two cocktails in the air.

Another effect of alcohol is its natural tendency to act as a diuretic while on the ground or in the air. Diuretics will increase blood flow through the kidney causing more water to filter out. Your urine production goes up, your water volume goes down. Avoid alcohol and caffeine to keep your kidney in check.

Exercise? In These Small Seats?
Don't start your Tae Bo workout or work on your yoga inversions in your 2 cubic feet of personal space, but do practice some simple stretches and exercises to keep yourself from feeling run down.

Start with neck and shoulder stretches. Practice putting your chin to your chest, then looking up to those reading lights. Tip your head from side to side and do a few slow, controlled circles in both directions. Next, shrug your shoulders a few times the press your chest out while pushing your shoulder blades together.

Move onto your arms by bringing your elbows to shoulder level with your fist pointing straight up at a 90 degree angle from your elbow. Flex your bicep slowly until the muscle begins to hurt a little. Repeat with the other side.

For forearms, pack along a tennis ball and squeeze with your hand facing down and your forearm out in front of you. Once you're done with your forearms, put the tennis ball between your knees and SQUEEZE those inner thighs for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat.

Fight the urge to let your abdominals turn to flubber in the plane and work them, as well. Don't do sit-ups in the aisle, instead try this breathing suction motion. Exhale all the air in your lungs. Before inhaling, suck your stomach in as high into your ribcage as you can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then inhale and relax. Repeat as many times as you can. Note: don't do this right after eating.

When you get up to take a walk to the front or the back of the plane, stop for a minute or two and do calf raises. Stand flat-footed then raise up to your toes. Repeat until your calves are on fire or the seat belt sign illuminates and the Captain asks you back to your seat.

Shifting Weight
Not in the bulkhead compartment, though those suitcases have been known to shift during flight, but your weight. Avoid sugary or heavy meals or snacks on your journey. Bring along an apple, banana, a cheese stick or a sandwich wrap to munch on. Choose a diet soda, club soda or plain old sky-juice (water, that is) instead of a calorie-laden cola.



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