10 tips for healthy flying
Flying is great – but also quite strenuous for the body. What do passengers with heart conditions have to take into account? And how can I use the on-board rest room in the most hygienic way?
Health is a precious commodity – and the same applies up in the sky. We asked Thomas Schmitt from the Lufthansa Group Medical Services how passengers can get from A to B and still stay fit and healthy.
1. Flying when pregnant? Sure!
You might recall – in July, a healthy baby boy was born on board flight LH 543. Deliveries on board are extremely rare, and for good reason. Although flying when pregnant is not a problem in general, this is only the case up to a specific point in time. After the 36th week of pregnancy, women should avoid air travel (except for in emergencies). “You should discuss the journey with your doctor even before this stage of pregnancy, and it is best to have a medical certificate with you, which testifies that it is safe for you to fly,” says Schmitt. There is a simple reason for this. “Flying in itself does not present a significantly increased risk for the mother or her child, but the excitement, for example, could lead to her going into labor.” And even if both mother and baby on flight LH 543 were perfectly fine – both could have done without the stress of a birth on board an aircraft.
2. Against the pressure
Most people are familiar with the ear pressure that is noticeable particularly on landing. “Sucking candy, chewing gum, or deliberate yawning can help,” says our medical expert, Schmitt. The “Valsalva” method is also useful. “This involves pinching your nose and pressing the air carefully into the area of your throat with your mouth closed,” says Schmitt. And if you have a cold? “You should avoid flying with a cold, as the swollen mucous membranes don’t allow for pressure equalization.” But if a flight cannot be avoided, a decongestant nasal spray can help.
3. With a good heart
Different levels of pressure, less oxygen in the air – air travel can be taxing on the cardiovascular system. For healthy people, this isn’t a problem. “Travelers with heart conditions should definitely consult their cardiologist or our Medical Operations Center to make sure they are fit to fly,” says Schmitt. This also applies to passengers with pacemakers, in particular if these have only recently been fitted. In general, however, it should be possible to fly from just a few days after surgery (after gaining medical approval). And another thing – “Problems with security control are usually only the case with older models of scanner,” says Schmitt. The new full-body scanners (“naked scanners”) are not a problem for pacemakers. But please don’t forget – you must present a medical certificate at security stating that you have a pacemaker.
4. Not nauseous
If you suffer from travel sickness, you should choose light meals prior to the flight and on board, and avoid foods that cause bloating. “Carbonated drinks also tend to be counter-productive,” says Schmitt. If necessary, medication such as so-called “travel tablets” can help. “But these can make you sleepy,” says Schmitt. You should therefore consider the length of the flight – and what your plans are for afterwards. And if nothing else helps – you can find sick bags in the pocket in the seat in front of you.
5. Against dryness
The air on board is drier than the air on the ground. You will feel this in your eyes, nose and mouth. “There is one thing that helps above all against moisture loss,” says Schmitt. “Drink a lot.” That means – at least one to two glasses more per hour than normal. A nasal spray can also help against dried out mucous membranes in the nose, and oily lotions are good for lips and noses. And a tip for wearers of contact lenses – wear glasses when flying, and use eye drops if necessary.
6. Prevent thrombosis
Sitting for long periods, less space than usual – for some passengers with pre-existing conditions, this can—in the worst case—lead to thrombosis, meaning that a blood vessel has become blocked by a blood clot. “Risk factors include smoking, excess weight or the contraceptive pill,” says Schmitt. How can you prevent thrombosis? “Drink a lot, get up and walk about regularly, and do little exercises,” says Schmitt. The FC Bayern Munich team have given a demonstration of the kind of exercises you can easily do in your seat. You can find their video in the on-board entertainment!
7. Medication on board
If you have to take regular medication, you should carry this with you in your hand luggage. You are allowed to take on anything that has been medically indicated. “If in doubt, passengers with opioid painkillers or anything similar should carry a medical certificate issued by the prescribing doctor – in English if possible,” says Schmitt. And – make sure to note the import regulations of the destination country! Some countries are very strict with regard to importing medication.
8. Quite sober
You may also order alcoholic drinks on our flights. And a beer or a glass of wine might well be helpful against stress. But please consider that alcoholic drinks should be consumed in moderation – especially in the air: “The change in air pressure, the unfamiliar surroundings and possible turbulence can all mean that the effects of alcohol are stronger than on the ground,” says Schmitt. And we don’t want you to have to make use of our sick bags…
9. In the restroom
If you drink a lot – be it alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks – you will need to use the restroom sooner or later. And everyone likes to use a clean toilet. That’s why we suggest – sitting down! This applies to both men and women. Because if everyone sits down, not much fails to hit the target. It is also quite hygienic as long as the skin is intact. We also carry hygienic toilet seat covers on board. Then there’s really nothing to worry about. As long as you remember to wash your hands afterwards…
10. Arriving fit and well
It’s great to travel the world – if only it weren’t for the jetlag … Our body has its own inner clock, and it gets confused when we fly across several time zones. To help you cope with the time difference, it’s a good idea to change your watch to the local time of your destination country when you are still up in the air, so that you can mentally adjust to the new time rhythm. Once you arrive, you should try to fit in with the daily rhythm of the local area, get plenty of sleep on the first night, and spend as much time as possible outdoors – the daylight helps your body to adapt more quickly to the new environment.