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Air travel: common problems

January 11, 2014

swollenanklesCooped up in a restricted space–unable to stretch one’s proverbial wings–this must be what the stereotypical battery hen feels like. The lack of legroom in an economy cabin may ruffle your feathers, but the airfare for flying first class is not exactly chicken feed.

Now I am a fairly tall guy, and–although I may describe myself as a lithe contortionist (practicing advanced airplane yoga)– fellow passengers might say that, in my attempts to find that elusive position of comfort, I rather resemble a hastily twisted balloon animal.

Such extended periods of immobility in an uncomfortable position creates problems. One of the problems frequent flyers experience is ankle swelling. Sitting for prolonged periods during air travel causes blood to pool in the legs, builds up pressure in leg veins, and pushes fluid into those soft tissues around the ankles.

So, while you’re feeling like a battery chicken, this is what you should do to relieve foot swelling during a flight:

  • Shake a tail feather: When seated, change positions frequently.

  • Strut like a rooster: Stand up and try to walk around every hour or two. Once you reach your destination, walk as much as you can to stimulate your circulation.

  • Dip your beak in some water: Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration; Try to avoid sedatives and alcohol, which could make you drowsy and impair your mobility.

  • Shake those chicken legs: Perform ankle rolls; regularly flex and extend your ankles, and knees; and do not cross your legs. Use these seated exercises and stretches.

  • Wear fine feathers: Make an effort to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and consider wearing knee-high compression stockings. Make sure your shoes can accommodate expanding ankles and swollen feet.

Other Problems:

Cabin Pressure

Fluctuating cabin pressure during aircraft  climb and descent  can result in nasal/sinus congestion and ear discomfort. To alleviate these symptoms, use nasal sprays, decongestants, and antihistamines. The symptoms tend to be most pronounced during aircraft descent. Swallowing or yawning will help to equalize the pressure between your middle ear chamber and the external environment. If you are traveling with an infant, you may decide to time a feed to coincide with airplane descent  because suckling and swallowing will help to balance the baby’s ear pressures.

Motion Sickness

During flight, discord arises between your body’s visual cues and its sense of equilibrium. Air turbulence can contribute by ‘shaking-up’  fluid in the balance centre of the inner ear, resulting in motion sickness. Focusing on a stationary point, such as the horizon can help–weather permitting. Anti-vertigo medication can also be used.

Cabin humidity

Low humidity in the aircraft cabin can dry the nose, throat and eyes. Drink copious amounts of hydrating fluids, such as water and juices. Minimize consumption of alcohol, coffee and other diuretics. Remove contact lenses if eye irritation occurs. Consider a skin moisturizer

Jet Lag

Travelling across time zones can disturb the rhythm of your sleep-wake cycle. Set your watch to the time of your destination so that your body has the duration of the flight  to adjust. It will generally take the body’s biological clock approximately one day to adjust per time zone crossed, so make allowance for this when planning a trip.

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