Air travel these days is a very common event and Perth Airport is amongst the busiest in Australia. And all the passengers are not just FIFO workers heading up north for work, tens of thousands of West Aussies head off to the
other side of the globe for business, for pleasure and most importantly of all, to catch up with family and friends.
If you're traveling to Europe, most people would be aware that these are long flights with 12 hours to the Gulf State “hubs” and then another 5 to 8 hours to the relevant European destination. Add in a 2 to 3 hour stop over in your airport of choice and it’s almost 24 hours travelling time, which for we here in one of the most isolated cities in the world, is not a really big issue. However, air travel does pose some environmental challenges, very different from those encountered driving across the Nullabor, and so it behoves us to prepare well and not expose ourselves to unnecessary risks. Risks associated with air travel vary from mild to serious and can affect young and old, the healthy and not so healthy.
Obviously certain parts of the world require us to take appropriate precautions with regard to vaccinations against Hepatitis, Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Cholera as well as thinking about Malaria too, and these If you have a pre- existing Health issue:
- See your Doctor at least 6 weeks prior to your trip.
- Make sure you have enough medications for the entire trip.
- Ask your Doctor for a printed list of all your medications.
- Check that your immunisation status covers that part of the world you are about to visit.
- Ask about how to reduce risks of Deep Vein Thrombosis.
- If you have an allergy make sure you carry a Medi Alert bracelet. need to be discussed with a Doctor who is skilled in Travel and Tropical Health issues. So be prepared, and prepare early: it really can ruin a really great holiday if you come down with one of these easily preventible diseases. However, it does take time for vaccinations and Anti-Malarials to become effective, so do plan them months in advance.
But it’s also the simple measures associated with air travel that can make all the difference between a comfortable flight and one that takes extra time to recover from.
Firstly, cabin pressure in an aircraft at 37,000ft is currently about 80% of the pressure on the ground - and the air outside the aircraft at that height is seriously cold and very dry. These factors have an impact on the air inside the cabin of the aircraft with the results that:
- During ascent and especially during descent the air pressure changes and this causes the pressure inside the ear drum to alter too. And if you can’t “equalize” the pressure inside the ear drum with the pressure outside the ear drum then the drum itself can “implode” - and that’s very, very painful. Those who are at highest risk are those with small Eustachian tubes - infants and toddlers: and those with blocked noses - people with allergies and head colds. Toddlers can be helped if they are fed during ascent and descent as the sucking reflex helps equalised the pressure in the Eustachian tube. If you have a head cold, make sure you carry some decongestant nose spray with you and practice “equalizing” the pressure in the Eustachian tube at those vulnerable times.
- The dry cabin air has an effect on the mucous membranes of the eye and the nose. This can be helped by:
- Using artificial tears for the eyes
- Using glasses instead of contacts and
- Avoid having the personal air flow above your head blowing directly into your face
- The nose can be helped with either saline nose sprays or the use of “nose oil” - which is a sesame seed oil that coats the lining of the nose and helps keep it moist for some hours.
Hundreds of thousands of people pass through airports on a daily basis and some will have colds or influenza infections which can be spread onto the surfaces which they touch or come into contact with - handrails, door handles, cafeteria tables etc. If you touch those surfaces shortly afterwards then you can transfer those infections to yourself and catch “their” cold. The simple answer is to practice meticulous personal hygiene when travelling: carry some liquid hand cleanser and use it frequently in airport situations. If someone coughs in front of you then give them a 3 to 4 meter wide-berth so that you avoid the aerosol spread of any infection.
Deep Vein Thrombosis can happen to air travellers - albeit it’s a rare one - and these can be life threatening.
If you are in a higher risk category, then discuss your proposed travel with your Doctor and what you can do to prevent it. Compression stockings are a great idea, but always make sure that you get up
Those at higher risk of DVTs:
- Those with known clotting problems or previous DVT
- Obese or overweight
- Women on contraceptive hormone treatment
- People with knee or leg injuries who are immobile
- Pregnant women
- Cancer sufferers
- and move around the aircraft as much as you can during the flight and drink plenty of WATER.
Air travel is an accepted part of modern day life and has been a boon to families who are divided by distance. By taking a few simple precautions you can travel comfortably and arrive in good health so that you can spend the time with those you love - and not sick in bed because you took a silly risk.