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Remedies for in-flight maladies

Arti Sharma | July 15, 2003

If globetrotting on flights is part of your schedule, here are a few tips on how to combat the various symptomatic ailments you might suffer before you touch terra firma.

Most commonly, people flying from one part of the globe to the other suffer from what is called as jet lag (caused by time change and exhaustion).

But there are also other maladies like colds and infections, dehydration, gastrointestinal discomfort and other such related symptoms that can create problems.

Then there is deep vein thrombosis or DVT, which is caused due to prolonged sitting. Women taking the pill or undergoing hormone replacement therapy, anyone who has had a recent leg operation or who suffers from varicose veins and obese people are very susceptible to this disease.

Scientists now think one in 30 airline passengers develop DVT. Although most clots dissolve naturally during the flight, 10 per cent are thought to be potentially fatal.

Early warning symptoms of DVT include localised tenderness or redness, sudden pain or swelling, fever, a sudden, unexplained cough or a rapid heartbeat.

The must dos

  • Always try to get an aisle seat so that your movement is not restricted.

  • Also, if you check in earlier, there is a greater possibility to get a seat in the first row of the economy section where there is more leg-room - these are called bulk-head seats.

  • Studies have shown that there is less carbon dioxide (the main cause for nausea, weakness and headaches) in the forward seats.

  • There are also the seats near the emergency exits, which offer more space, but you must be prepared to open the emergency doors if required.

  • If you get earache while flying, sucking on a sweet always helps especially during take off and landing.

  • If that does not work, try keeping your mouth closed and sealing your nose with your thumb and forefinger.

  • Then blow through your nose. This should ease the blocked feeling.

  • Wear flat soled, comfortable shoes that are soft, will keep your feet warm and can be loosened. Wearing such shoes also prevents the chances of swelling in the feet.

  • If you have to use the washroom, get up and walk to the washroom furthest from your seat once the seat belt sign is off, so that you can exercise those numb leg muscles.

  • While walking regulate your breathing, it will make you feel better.

  • Wear baggy clothes made from natural fibres, that are not tight around the waist, chest, allow you to breathe and sit comfortably.

  • Also do not wear socks that have tight elastics and once you're settled in your seat make sure that you loosen your top button, belt and shoelaces. Don't cross your legs or ankles, or try to put luggage behind your legs.

  • In fact it is better to store all your luggage in the overhead compartment so that the space around your feet is free.

  • Loose clothes also maintain your blood circulation normally. If you feel anxious, try to divert your mind with some in-flight entertainment, book or magazine. It will help a great deal to think of something else like imagining you are landing at your destination.

  • Make sure you take care of your spinal posture. If your seat cannot be inflated around your lower back, try supporting it with a rolled up blanket, pillow.

  • The best thing you can invest in, is a neck support cushion, if you are a frequent flier. If you are able to prop up your feet, it will relieve the pressure on the backs of your thighs.

  • There are a number of exercises you can do to help reduce swelling and pain from cramped muscles and hampered blood circulation.

  • To prevent dehydration and dry skin, drink at least two to three glasses of water every hour. The air in a plane has only 1-10 per cent humidity.

  • Avoid coffee, alcohol (no matter how tempting those small cart drink bottles look!) and even carbonated drinks as they can add to gastrointestinal discomfort and will only make you feel drowsy or want to visit the wash room more often.

  • And most importantly eat a light meal instead of wanting to sample everything that is on offer on the flight.

  • Remember that even if you choose a vegetarian meal, the food could contain a substantial amount of salt and fat.

  • So stick to the fruit plate and other light foods. Avoid all gas-forming stuff such as peas, beans and pulses. Not only does gas make you uncomfortable, it serves to compact the contents of the bowel and cause constipation.

  • You can also carry a few healthy snacks but remember over eating causes extreme discomfort since the internal organs naturally swell due to cabin pressure changes.

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