HSE Excellence Europe

Frequent flyer? Read our health guide

Do you travel a lot? And do you like it or dread it?

Your plane can be late or you can experience some minor turbulence. But did you know you can suffer from “Economy Class Syndrome”?

From headache to heavy legs, let’s dissect the 10 struggles our bodies go through 10 kilometres above the ground.

1. Do you suffer from physical impairment or are you on medication? Do you have a heart or lung condition? Are you pregnant? There are several conditions where you should take extra precautions. Consult your doctor before a long flight, do not forget your medicine and be careful with airline meals if you have allergies.

2. Long hours in the same position can cause sore muscles and numb legs. Deep Vein Thrombosis and blood clots are dangerous conditions. How can you avoid them? Before you board the plane, take a stroll around and stretch. When already in your seat, bend your knees, move your feet and flex your toes and ankles. Also try to lose the habit of crossing your legs. If it is a long-haul flight, take a stroll down the aisle.

3. Pressure in the cabin can cause hearing problems too. Try chewing gum, especially during take-off and landing. If you still feel your ears need to pop, try yawning or swallowing. If it does not work, try the “Valsalva Maneuver” – close your mouth, pinch your nostrils and exhale.

4. Choose your food and drinks wisely. Did you know that human taste changes up in the air? Wine and sweet and salty food the most. Snack on sour and spicy things. Also, some scientists say the ability to taste the “fifth taste” called umami remains intact, and might even be enhanced. Have you noticed your fellow passengers ordering tomato juice? Tomatoes happen to be rich in umami.

5. Travelling far? You can experience jet lag. Changing time zones affects your circadian rhythms; ergo, you can experience problems with sleeping. What is the best prevention? Alter your sleeping schedule a few days before your trip so you’ll adapt better and plan your flights so you arrive at approximately the same time of the day as it is in your starting country. If you are due to land at night, avoid drinks with caffeine. Changing the time on your watch and mobile to the local time also helps.

6. Digestion problems – Board the flight rested, avoid heavy meals, eat slowly, avoid coffee and tea because they cause dehydration and wear comfortable clothing. It is enough that the seatbelt puts pressure on your waist.

7. Air circulates in the closed cabin and we all know the dread of having a sick colleague. Imagine having sick people with you on the plane. Pack some vitamin C, drink enough water and use hand sanitiser.

8. Flying a lot? It affects your cells too. Did you know that flyers are exposed to higher levels of cosmic radiation at higher latitudes, altitudes and in thin atmosphere? It is most risky for flight crew members and pregnant women. Studies show that vitamins A, C and E, citrus fruits and green tea protect our bodies from free radicals.

9. Protect your back and neck. Direct exposure to cold air flowing from air conditioning can cause neck pain; pack a scarf with you. Some airlines also offer extra blankets or cushions. Watch your posture too – sit in a comfy position, but not one that puts extra stress on your lower back. You’ll be thankful when you land and stand up, trust us 🙂

10. You may feel that your eyes, nose and throat are dry. It is because there is less humidity in the cabin (less than 20%). At home or work we are used to 30-50%. Drink fluids and pack eye drops, nasal spray, Chapstick or lotion.

Do you experience any of the above when travelling?

How do you deal with it?



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