Keep well during your flight

SINGAPORE – Air travel can be associated with some discomfort, but there are ways to mitigate it.

Dr Limin Wijaya, a senior consultant at the infectious diseases department and the head of the Travel and Vaccination Clinic at the Singapore General Hospital offers the following tips:

Low cabin pressure

Modern aircrafts are not running at sea level pressure. The air pressure in the cabin is the same as the air pressure at 6,000 to 8,000 feet, which is as if one is on top of a mountain.

As such, the lower levels of oxygen and air pressure changes in the plane causes stress to the body, though most passengers can compensate for the small decrease in oxygen in the aircraft.

“Individuals who are not able to equilibrate the pressure in their middle ear or sinus may have discomfort during ascent and descent,” said Dr Wijaya.

“The typical sensation of fullness in the ear, reduced hearing and pain over the ear during descent is due to this disequilibrium.”

A blockage due to a bad cold or allergy can cause problems with equilibrium. When this happens, the pain can be alleviated by performing active manoeuvres such as swallowing, yawning or performing the Valsalva manoeuvre, which is done by exhaling against a closed airway.

Simply close your mouth, pinch your nose, and exhale forcefully.

Doing so will increase the pressure in your oral cavity, which is then transmitted to the middle ear cavity to balance the pressure differences associated with flying. This will prevent pressure-related injuries to the ears and sinuses.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

The presence of blood clot in the legs has been associated with long-haul flights and the lack of mobility.

It is known as the ‘economy class syndrome’, although this is a misnomer as DVT is associated with prolonged immobilisation which does not occur only in aircrafts.

Most travellers who develop DVT may have underlying medical conditions such as a previous episode of DVT or have gone through a major surgery recently.

Reduce the risk by keeping yourself hydrated, walking or stretching your legs on a regular basis during the flight.

Dry cabin air

Cabin air can be dry and may cause dry skin and dry eyes. However, the body’s protective mechanism is able to prevent dehydration and there is no harm to health.

Use moisturising creams and eye drops to treat your dry skin and dry eyes.

Jet lag

This is a consequence of travelling through multiple time zones, leading to sleep disturbances, tiredness and impaired overall function.

Reduce it by having adequate rest and drinking enough water. You can also break your long trip into shorter segments to reduce jet lag.

Exposure to daylight at your destination site can help to readjust your body’s circadian rhythm.

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