Health tips for international air travel

The beginning of an international journey starts well before those first steps onto foreign soil. Any traveler leaving from the United States will first spend hours at the airport followed by long hours on a plane.

For the most part, air travel is safe and convenient. But cramped quarters, pressurization and depressurization, and exposure to one’s fellow travelers’ maladies can pose certain risks. Follow these tips to safeguard your health and arrive ready to dig in to your first day in a different country.

First, are you fit to fly?

If you have health issues, are pregnant, have had recent surgery or have a history of deep vein thrombosis, it’s best to see your doctor well before buckling in for a long plane ride. Ask good questions and let your doctor know the length of your flight. If you are more than six months pregnant, ask your doctor for a letter stating your due date. Some airlines require this information. Make sure you know your carrier’s requirements and limitations before the day of your trip.

Carry your meds with you

If you take prescription medication, stow it in your carry-on rather than in your luggage, which could be lost or delayed.

Protect yourself from surface germs

Everything you touch at the airport has already been touched by someone else. The same is true of the plane. Carry sanitizing wipes with at least 60% alcohol and use them after touching any surfaces in the airport. Once on the plane, wipe down the armrests, the tray and the seat-belt buckles and then wipe your own hands. If you use the airplane toilet, wash your hands well and open the door using a paper towel.

More tips for air travelers

Drink plenty of water. Humidity in an airplane cabin is very low. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated, help with circulation and reduce jet lag once you arrive. And, getting up to go to the bathroom is a good thing.

Wear glasses, not contact lenses. Again, the dry air in the cabin dries eyes as well as everything else.

Wrangle ear pain. Remember to chew, yawn and swallow as the plane ascends or descends. This helps move air to the middle ear and sinuses. For an infant, a bottle or pacifier can achieve the same end.

Avoid flying after diving. Wait at least 12 hours after a non-decompression dive and 24 hours for a decompression dive.

Know about traveler’s thrombosis.  Blood clots in the leg veins can occur during long flights. There are many risk factors, so having a check-up before you go is wise. For an otherwise healthy person, the best defense is prevention. Wear loose-fitting clothing, get up and walk, and exercise the calf and thigh muscles while seated.

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