Prevention & Recovery

Travel health: 10 ways to stay healthy during flights

By: Doug O'Neill

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

Travel health: 10 ways to stay healthy during flights

By: Doug O'Neill
We consulted Certified Travel Health Consultant Dr. Colin Saldanha and staff at Etihad Airways for their tips on staying healthy while flying.

10 ways to stay healthy during a flight to anywhere
1. Drink your fluids.
"Hydrate with water and keep alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks to a minimum, as they cause you to lose fluids," advises Dr. Saldanha.

2. Stretch your legs.
Stand and walk around the aircraft at least every hour to boost circulation.

3. Protect your legs. "Wear support hose stockings – especially if you have any chronic disease or are overweight," urges Dr. Saldanha. "This exercise helps to prevent and minimize the risk of leg clots."

4. Keep the air moving. To avoid air getting trapped in your ears and sinuses, periodically swallow, chew or yawn. Bring a pacifier if you're travelling with infants, as it may provide the same relief.

5. Be comfortable. Wear loose and comfortable clothing and footwear. This will improve your comfort level, especially on long-haul flights.

6. Be kind to your feet.
Rotate and move your feet frequently when you're sitting, recommends Dr. Saldanha. It's important to try to leave as much leg room as possible under the seat in front of you to keep your feet free to stretch and move, so stow away any baggage you can in the overhead.

7. Keep your meds with you.
Dr. Saldanha, like many other physicians and travel experts, urge that you carry onboard your daily routine medications, including such items as blood sugar testing instruments and insulin.

8. Go easy on the free grub and fizzy drinks. Avoid overeating and consuming carbonated drinks. This will leave you feeling gaseous and uncomfortable.

9. Inform the air crew about your allergies.
"Always advise airline staff of any allergies you may have," Dr. Saldanha recommends.

10. Talk to your doctor. Consult your physician before you travel to get a clean bill of health and any necessary health updates and immunizations.  

Page 1 of 2 – Learn five more healthy-travel tips from the author on page 2.5 more healthy-flight tips from the author
Here are five more tips of my own that have helped me through 20-plus years of flying. As always, consult your physician with any questions or concerns prior to leaving.

• Sleep medications: Many people who have trouble sleeping on an airplane turn to over-the-counter medications to help them get some zzz's. A few questions to ask yourself before popping that pill: have you tried this particular medication before – at home? Are you sure you want to take a sleep-inducing medication for the first-time while travelling? What's the likelihood of you waking up drowsy in a strange airport – or any airport for that matter? 

• Make the most of your stop-over: I recently flew from Toronto to Chennai, India, with a four-hour stop-over in Abu Dhabi. I made the most of it by relaxing in the Etihad Pearl Lounge and treated myself to a 20-minute back massage, and then relaxed in the lounge rather than the less comfortable boarding bays. (It meant that I was relaxed and rejuvenated when I finally landed in the hustle and bustle that is India.)  Paying a little extra to use the airline's lounges is an especially smart option if you're travelling with seniors, young children or if you're simply exhausted from the pre-trip preparations. It's best to arrive at your destination ready to enjoy your holiday and not spend two days recuperating from the journey.

• Break up a long distance flight. If you're flying from Calgary to Montreal, you should be fine. But if you're taking a trip from, say, an airport in Canada to a city in Asia, consider taking a one-day break en route. A 24-hour stop-over may just the thing to limber you up for that great two-week vacation ahead.

• Bump up your immunity. The reality is that stress, lack of sleep, perhaps an uncomfortable stop-over in an airport, can all wear down your defenses. It's imperative to maintain a balanced diet and continue to take your vitamins so your immune system remains intact.

• Keep your skin moist. It's common that some people experience dry skin while on board an airplane. Consider packing a small (airline-approved size) tube of moisturizer into your carry on luggage so you can moisturize when you're feeling uncomfortable.

Happy healthy travelling!

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Prevention & Recovery

Travel health: 10 ways to stay healthy during flights