Health Tips for Air Travelers

Health Tips for Air Travelers

Achy back, sore neck, sniffling nose, pounding head and relentless fatigue: the hallmarks of a just-debarked airplane passenger. Whether you're a frequent flyer or planning your first air excursion, you're susceptible to physical stress of air travel. As a prevention specialist, Dr Sipser helps patients prepare their bodies for air travel, and fend off flight-related ailments.

Avert Ache With Adjustments
Visiting a chiropractor prior to your flight is key to a pain-free vacation or business trip. Sitting for hours in a cramped plane seat - and sleeping in a lumpy hotel bed - shift the spine's natural posture. This shift may aggravate a condition called vertebral subluxation - areas in the spine where movement is restricted or bones are out of alignment. This dysfunction is linked with a myriad of ailments, including neck pain, backache and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Dr. Hendrey works to correct vertebral subluxations before the onset of symptoms. So, schedule a chiropractic checkup before taking off to keep your spine in top form while travelling. Regular chiropractic care supports optimal spinal health, preventing travel-related pain and fatigue. The result: more productive and enjoyable journey.

Pack Perfect Pillows
Stroll down the aisle of a plane after dark and you'll notice a wide variety of contorted sleep positions - postures that wreak havoc on a traveler's neck and back. But an in-air catnap doesn't have to leave you stiff and sore. To keep your spine aligned while you snooze, invest in a traveler's pillow. These u-shaped pillows cradle the spine, preventing the neck from slouching forward or to the side.

Speaking of pillows, Dr. Sipser also suggests bringing your pillow from home along when you travel. Hotel pillows are often rigid and bulky, and they don't allow for proper neck positioning.

Schedule Stretch Sessions
Frequent stretch breaks are a vital component of a healthy flight. Stretching wards off two flying related ailments: blood clots and muscles soreness.

Approximately one in every two million flyers suffer travel-induced blood clots (thromboses), which are triggered by prolonged sitting. This number may seem low, but the incident of this disorder is rocketing. Flight-related blood clots are so widespread that in 1995 an international conference was held to discuss the problem, which is also known as 'economy class syndrome', 'coach class thrombosis' and 'traveler's thrombosis'.

No matter what you call it, traveler's thrombosis may have serious implications, including stroke and death. Blood clots usually form during long trips, with 76.5% of eases occurring after a flight lasting at least 12 hours (Bull Acad Natl Med 1999; 183:985-97). Traveler's thrombosis is also more common in passengers with a history of cardiovascular diseases.

Research indicated that stretching boosts circulation, which may inhibit the formation of blood clots. Stretching also wards off muscular soreness, another condition provoked by prolonged sitting. According to scientific research, stretching prevents the chemical reactions that create muscle ache.

Remind yourself to stretch by setting a watch alarm for 30 minute intervals. Every half-hour, promenade the aircraft's aisles, and perform three to five minutes of stretching.

Launch an Antioxidant Attack
Air travel exposes flyers to cosmic radiation, which may create disease causing free radicals and spur cellular changes associated with cancer. In one study, investigators poured over the medical records of 3,877 pilots and cockpit engineers. Cockpit crew members who flew more than 5,000 hours showed an elevated risk of myeloid leukemia and skin cancer (Lancet 1999, 354:2029-31). Researches also speculate that frequent flying may up the risk of prostate cancer.

In addition to radiation, reticulated airplane air - often teaming with fungus, viruses and bacteria - may also incite disease.

To ward off the hazards of cosmic radiation and reticulated air, fortify your body with natural immune boosters - antioxidants. Take extra antioxidant supplements (such as grape seed extract, selenium and vitamins A, C and E) during the two weeks prior to travel, and throughout your journey.

While in the air, suck on one of the new antioxidant lozenges available at most health food stores, or spritz your mouth with antioxidant oral spray once every three hours. One especially potent variety of lozenges and oral spays, which is scheduled to hit the market soon, contains the antioxidant glutathione. A study presented at the Experimental Biology 2000 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, revealed that oral sprays containing gluathione inhibit the flu virus. Specifically, glutathione triggers a chemical reaction that deactivates the enzymes that allow the virus to invade cells in the mouth and throat.

"This could be very helpful, for example, if you were sitting next to someone with the flu on an airplane. You could effectively block the infection for a period of several hours" said Dr. Dean Jones, the study's lead author.

Garlic is also a potent antioxidant and infection-blocker - but beware that fellow passengers may not appreciate the odiferous quality of your garlic feast.

Ditch Unnecessary Drugs
Alcohol and other drugs provoke jet lag. So skip the in-flight cocktail and avoid air-sickness medication or sleeping pills whenever possible. Instead, consider all-natural nausea remedies, such as ginger capsules and acupressure bracelets. For travel related insomnia, try melatonin supplements, which help shift your 'body clock' so it's inline with your destination's time zone. It is important to check you're your chiropractor before initiating any supplement therapy.

Bring Bottled Water
Adequate hydration deters jet lag, fatigue and illness. Pack a few bottles of spring water in your carry-on and make sure to guzzle them down during your flight.

Be Finicky About Flight Fare
A prodigious number of scientific studies have verified that medicinal properties of wholesome foods such as fruits, vegetables, soy, nuts, olive oil, wholegrains and fish. In contrast meals high in sugar, white grains, saturated fat and meats aggravate illness. So request a special health-conscious meal when you book your excursion. Most airlines offer an array of healthy entrees, including vegetarian, low-fat and Mediterranean options. Or, carry on a mini-cooler stocked with home cooked cuisine.

Tote Some Tea
Tossing several bags of herbal tea into your attaché before boarding can provide many in-air health benefits. First, brews such as ginger, lemon and mint are renowned for their anti-airsickness properties. In addition the heat of tea obliterates some virus and bacteria on contact. Varieties such as green, ginger, rose hip and ginseng also contain immune boosting antioxidants.

Tips presented by Dr. Warren Sipser of for Optimal Health University™.