What really happens to your body on an airplane

Flying is still a scary experience for many. Planes are frightening machines that can be very intimidating. They usually take you to your vacation destination and nothing gets you to where you need to be faster, but all of this comes at a price.

Jet lag

Jet lag, also known as “time zone change syndrome,” is not a problem due to lack of sleep. It is a condition that actually results from an imbalance in the body’s natural “biological clock caused by traveling to different time zones.

The 24-hour cycle, called the circadian rhythm, adjusts slowly when people travel to different time zones, resulting in feeling sleepy in the afternoon and staying awake in the middle of the night. 

Motion sickness

Motion sickness – when the body, the inner ear, and the eyes send contradictory signals to the brain – is fairly common, and often just a bother. The good news is that the more you travel, the more you get used to the motion.

To reduce the chance of getting sick you should not read a book, turn the air vents toward your face, and rest your head against the seat.

Ankle swelling

Leg and foot swelling during a flight is very common and it doesn’t pose a danger, most of the time. The problem is when people are sitting too much. This causes blood to pool in your leg veins.

Remaining in a seated position also increases the pressure in them. Also, the low cabin pressure prevents the blood from moving as quickly which leads fluid to build up in your feet.

Dehydration

An airplane has limited humidity making travelers prone to dehydration. When lacking water, the body will restrict airways as a self-defense mechanism to preserve whatever water it has left.

Dehydration can make you sick in many ways. If you don’t want to wake up with a headache and/or digestive problems, drink some water.

Bad breath

This is largely due to dehydration. Planes are dry spaces with lots of people. Such conditions will dry your mouth, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

Saliva, which basically flushes the germs from your mouth, has many anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that licking wounds make scientific sense because it is a natural antiseptic.

Oxygen deprivation

Cabins are pressurized to 75 percent of the normal atmospheric pressure, a recent study says. Lower levels of oxygen in your blood can lead to hypoxia, which is deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues.

Hypoxia presents symptoms such as euphoria, decreased reaction time, headache, and impaired judgment and vision, according to Flying Magazine.

DVT

People who travel long distances on a plane are at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It occurs when a blood clot forms in a large vein. Part of a clot may break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal, according to the CDC.

Keeping your blood flowing when you’re sedentary for long periods of time is vital. That’s why experts advise walking and chair exercises when flying.

Hearing loss

This may occur when an imbalance in the air pressure in the middle ear and air pressure in the environment prevents your eardrum from vibrating as it should, according to Mayo Clinic.

Sounds can often range between 95 and 105 decibels, rising to 115 during takeoff. When a plane climbs or descends, the air pressure in the environment changes very quickly, and your eustachian tube doesn’t react as fast.

No taste buds

Have you ever tried food on the plane and thought it was not done well because it tasted weird? The problem may be you. A lot is happening that affects your taste buds.

Air pressure is changing too fast and you’re breathing dry cabin air. This causes the nasal mucus membranes to try, which can lead to reduced taste by as much as 30 percent.

Lack of appetite

This can be a symptom of jet lag. Don’t trust the myth that it’s impossible to eat healthy on a plane. You can bring your own healthy options right on board, and most airlines allow you to request a vegan or vegetarian meal while booking your ticket. Airlines have come accustomed to providing to all dietary and nutritional requests.

Constipation

What do you expect to happen when you’re sitting down for hours at a time? The body is designed to move. If you don’t give it what it needs, your metabolism and digestion will slow down due to inactivity.

At the very least move your body as much as you can while sitting; try moving from side to side and get up at least once every hour.

Bad temper

This is especially common when you are on a long flight. The longer you travel the more disruptions in your biological clock you can expect, which can lead to irritability.

This is especially true among people who have a long-established daily routine from which you don’t deviate much. Also, some people tend to get angry when they have absolute no control over a situation.

Sensitive skin

You can blame this bad side effect on the lack of air and dry cabin again.

The skin needs to be hydrated, and it becomes prone to pimples when it’s not because it’s easier now for oil to get trapped under the skin cells, which, as in a vicious cycle, will try to compensate for the dry air by producing more oil, resulting in pimples.

Bloating and gas

These are a direct result from constipation. The inability to empty the bowels and bloated belly usually go hand in hand, research has shown.

Make sure you get enough fiber in you – 25 grams a day for adult women and 30 to 38 for adult men. High fiber foods include oatmeal, raspberries, almonds, apples, green vegetables. Drink water often and stay active to avoid constipation.

Cosmic radiation

A 7-hour flight exposes you to the same amount of radiation as an X-ray. Two years ago a long-haul air passengers was feared to be at risk from dangerous cosmic rays coming from the sun.

A subsequent investigation warned that a solar storm was likely to affect the general public if they are travelling by air on trans-oceanic routes.

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