How flying affects your body
We look at some of the weird effects that flying has on your body.
It should come as no surprise that traveling at 900km per hour in an aircraft flying at a height between 30–50,000 feet has an intense effect on your body. Even with pressurised cabins and an aircraft’s environmental controls and safety precautions, the fact remains that the human body wasn’t necessarily built to fly. We take a look at some of the ways that flying can adversely affect your body, and, where we can, show you how best to counter these effects.
Blood accumulates in your legs and feet
Many seasoned travellers will know about this one. Sitting for long intervals means that the blood sits stagnant in your legs and feet, which causes swelling and may even lead to blood clots. The best way to combat this is to keep your legs and feet moving – be it by walking or just stretching them every 15 minutes or so.
Did you know that the effects of jetlag on your brain are worse when you fly across two or more time zones, and that your body reacts worse when flying from the west towards the east? Our bodies prefer a 25-hour schedule, so flying from the east to the west increases the amount of daylight during a flight, which makes recovery from jet lag a little easier. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for this one, unless of course you want to fly from the east to the west every time you travel.
Flying fatigues you
The lack of oxygen on an aircraft can make you feel tired because the cabins are only pressurised to a mimic a 2000m (approximately) elevation. At this height your body absorbs less oxygen, which can make you dizzy and sleepy. Drinking plenty of water will help your body absorb as much oxygen as it can at that pressure.
Your risk of skin cancer increases
Did you know that pilots and flight attendants have twice the risk of developing skin cancer when compared to the general population? UV rays are far more powerful at higher altitudes, and, unfortunately, plane windows don’t do much to block them out. So, it may be best to draw the window shade or slop on some sunscreen the next time you fly.
Flying numbs your tastebuds
The drier environment on planes causes your mucus to evaporate, which can make your food seem tasteless, which, when you consider some airplane food, may be a good thing. A recent study has revealed that a person’s ability to taste sweetness and saltiness drops by 30 per cent when flying.
Flying makes you gassy
As the plane ascends and the cabin pressure drops, the gas inside your intestines expands, which can cause painful bloating and farting. Gas can also become trapped in your ears and cause nasty earaches. It can also find its way inside your fillings or areas of tooth decay, which can lead to terrible toothaches. Swallowing or forcing a yawn may help with your ears, as well as sucking on a lolly or chewing gum. Or you can try holding your nose and blowing, which may allow your ears to return to normal pressure. And to help with the bloating, here’s a good read on the foods you shouldn’t eat before you fly.
Have you ever experienced weird effects on (or in) your body when flying? Do you have any tips that may help out your fellow travellers?