Whether you’re planning a trip across the country or a trip across the world, traveling can take its toll on the health of even the most frequent jet setters.
Health risks for your Tanzanian safari or your once-in-a-lifetime trek up Machu Picchu start the minute you set foot on the plane, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the risk factors involved with traveling on long flights. Take precaution of these three possible conditions before embarking on your journey to make sure you get the most from your time abroad.
1. DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS
- What is it? Commonly called DVT, deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms inside a deep vein. These blood clots are most often found in the thighs and legs where veins are larger, and may form when changes in blood flow occur.
- What are the symptoms of DVT? Leg pain, swelling, or skin that is red and warm to the touch, most often on just one side of the body.
- Who is at risk? Blood clots can affect people in every level of health stability, regardless of family health history. (Tennis Grand Slam champ Serena Williams’ deep vein thrombosis led to a pulmonary embolism in 2011). Smoking cigarettes, taking birth control pills, birth within the last six months and recent surgery can increase the risk for clotting, as can cancer and other autoimmune diseases.
- TRAVEL TIP: Long flights in cramped quarters can increase your risk of DVT, so it’s important to move your legs and get up and walk around whenever possible. Wearing compression socks can also help ensure proper blood flow through the body.
2. JET LAG
- What is it? Jet lag is essentially a disruption of your body’s biological clock that results from long-distance air travel.
- What are the symptoms of jet lag? Jet lag can cause days of fatigue, disorientation, broken sleep, and a lack of energy. In other words, feeling miserable!
- How can I minimize the effects of jet lag? Consider adjusting your sleeping schedule to your destination’s time zone as early as possible. Drink plenty of fluids during your flight to keep you hydrated and healthy, and limit alcohol consumption, as altitude increases alcohol potency.
- TRAVEL TIP: Contrary to popular belief, taking sleeping pills on the flight will not prevent jet lag. Plan a light travel day ending with an early bedtime, and whenever possible, schedule time to rest when you arrive.
3. MOTION SICKNESS:
- What is it? Motion sickness is caused by a disagreement in the way your body’s sense of spatial orientation and balance relate to movements perceived by your eyes. It’s a common in-flight condition that can continue even after landing.
- What are the symptoms of motion sickness? Many travelers experiencing motion sickness suffer from nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Those with severe cases of motion sickness vomit frequently.
- TRAVEL TIP: Motion sickness can be prevented with over-the-counter antihistamine tablets or BioBands worn on the wrist. It’s also best to avoid activities that you know trigger motion sickness in your body (reading, watching videos, leaving windows closed during your flight).
If your approaching travel plans involve long flights and you’re concerned about DVT, jet lag or motion sickness, visit your local travel clinic and talk with a travel health specialist about preventative measures and your personal health history. With answers to your questions and a plan in place to protect your health through every leg of your trip, you can depart with confidence.