I think we can all agree that perhaps the human body didn’t evolve to handle a 13-hour cross-continental flight from Los Angeles to Beijing. The general sense of crumminess we feel after landing is not an illusion -- it’s the body’s response to being launched 35,000 feet into the air, whipped around between time zones, sandwiched between strangers, and being fed a foil-wrapped concoction that’s criminally called a meal. If you’re a frequent flyer, listen up. There are a few health hazards you should keep in mind before hopping on your next flight. Luckily, they’re fairly simple to keep in check with the right treatments. Here are the 4 hazards of frequent flying and how you can hack each of them.
By far the most infamous health hazard associated with travel is jet lag. That said, jet lag can cause much more than an inconvenient early wake-up or a necessary mid-day siesta. Jet lag can mean diarrhea, constipation, confusion, anxiety, nausea, and other uncomfortable side effects.
How to Hack It: There are more than a few remedies for jet lag. First and foremost, make sure you’re well rested heading into your flight. Second, light is the key variable in control of your circadian rhythm, so try to use a face mask to match your timing with your destination. You can also combat jet lag with your diet. Aside from the many other benefits of intermittent fasting, you’re more able to sync your sleep schedule to match your environment while in a fasted state, so consider holding off on that questionable airplane food.
There’s a lot working against the immune system when you board an airplane. Low humidity that dries up your mucus system, lots of strangers carrying bacteria from all parts of the world, dehydration, gassiness associated with the decreased cabin pressure -- you get the point. Studies suggest that you’re 100 times more likely to catch a cold while flying.
How to Hack It: Stay hydrated, keep your hands clean, avoid touching your face, keep up on dental hygiene, and consider taking some supplements like zinc, vitamin C, and probiotics prior to flying. Also make sure you’re well rested, as a lack of sleep can cause for a weakened immune system.
Hearing Loss and Noise Stress
As it turns out, the constant white noise of aircraft machinery isn’t as innocuous as it sounds. The average plane hovers around 80 decibels (for reference, nightclubs are at about 100, and normal conversation is around 60), which is enough to cause two reactions: stress, and hearing loss.
In one study, rats that were exposed to prolonged periods of airplane noise were noticeably anxious and they experienced significant hearing loss. While the stress is temporary, the hearing loss is permanent -- what you lose, you lose.
How to Hack It: Although fairly expensive, the solution to this one is straightforward: get some noise-canceling headphones. What you shouldn’t do is wear normal headphones and play music at a higher volume.
At the root of the vast majority of health hazards is poor circulation, and frequent travel is one of circulation’s biggest enemies. When you sit for long periods of time, your blood can clot unexpectedly throughout your legs and wreak havoc on your circulatory system. The longer your flight, the more of a risk deep-vein thrombosis can cause.
How to Hack It: The only way to avoid deep-vein thrombosis is to avoid sitting for too long. Get up and take frequent trips to the bathroom, or just walk the aisles every so often. Make sure to do this on flights that are longer than 4 or 5 hours.
Written by: Dillon DuBois