As you stuff one more swimsuit into your luggage in preparation for spring break, consider the following tips for a healthier vacation. Flying can take a toll on your body. Many travelers report experiencing jet lag upon arriving to their destination and once again when returning to work, others complain about leg and foot swelling or catch a cold. With a little preparation you may be able to avoid or decrease the health perils of traveling for a more relaxing vacation.
Reduce jet lag
Your body’s circadian rhythm manages when you feel sleepy or alert by releasing more or less of a sleep hormone called melatonin. When traveling from one time zone to another in a short period of time, your body’s circadian rhythm may not be able to synch with the new time zone. The more drastic the time zone change, the higher probability for jet lag. Night time insomnia, day time sleepiness, upset stomach and mood changes are some of the most common jet lag symptoms. Experiencing jet lag may take away from enjoying your vacation.
Before your departure, slowly adjust your sleep/wake cycle. If you are heading east, go to sleep a bit earlier a few nights before your trip. If you are going west, try sleeping a bit later. Gradually allowing your body to adjust can help you avoid jet lag. Upon arrival, apply some sunscreen and search for the sun. The natural sunlight on your body can decrease the production of melatonin, allowing you to feel alert. At night, avoid screens and other bright lights. The absence of light will signal your body to begin producing more melatonin.
Boost immune system
There are many reasons why people tend to get sick after flying. The environment practically begs for you to get sick. Your lungs are working double time to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the cabin. Several investigations highlight a high number of germs in cabins. Swab tests confirmed pathogenic bacteria on tray tables, and fecal bacteria on TSA bins. Unless you are flying first class, personal space is non-existent, making it problematic if you are sitting near a passenger who is already sick.
Boost up your immune system by consuming vitamin C before your flight. Cells in your body need vitamin C to perform tasks designed to keep you healthy. Wipe down surface areas with anti-bacterial wet wipes to decrease bacteria around your seat. When possible try to select a window seat over a middle aisle seat so that you can reduce your proximity and exposure to other passengers and flight attendants.
Prevent inflammation, swelling
Leg and foot swelling during and immediately after a flight are common, typically due to leg inactivity and cramped spaces. Those who are at an increase risk for blood clots due to a recent surgery or birth control may want to take extra precautions to avoid swelling and always follow their provider’s recommendations. To help decrease your chances of leg and foot swelling wear compression socks during flights, stay hydrated, move your ankles and adhere to any medication prescribed by your doctor to avoid blood clots.
Taking some time to plan today can result in a more enjoyable and healthy vacation. Safe travels!
Blanca Gutierrez is a project coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health