Flying can cause temporary effects, such as ear discomfort, jet lag, and dehydration. It can also increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). However, many people take flights without any health complications.
People who travel on airplanes may have concerns about the potential effect flying has on the body, particularly if they fly regularly. However, it is not common for people to experience health conditions or complications directly due to flying.
This article examines some possible effects of flying, how to reduce the risk of developing such conditions, and frequently asked questions about health and flying.
DVT is when someone forms a blood clot in a deep vein, such as those in the legs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveling for
DVT arises during travel because people sit still in confined spaces for long periods. The following factors can increase a person’s risk of developing blood clots:
- being more than 40 years of age
- having had surgery or an injury within 3 months
- using birth control that contains estrogen
- pregnancy and the postpartum period
- hormone replacement therapy
- having had a previous blood clot
- a family history of blood clots
- active cancer or recent cancer treatment
- having limited mobility
- varicose veins
According to a
These include an increased heart rate, more contracted heart muscles, and changes in how much blood the heart can pump.
Some people are more susceptible to these effects, including people with:
The paper’s author suggests stressful factors due to the flight may also affect blood pressure, including:
- anxiety during take-off and landing
- aircraft noises
- changes in body position as the airplane accelerates and decelerates
Some people may experience ear discomfort while flying. Doctors sometimes call this “airplane ear.”
According to a
Although airplane ear can happen to anyone, the following factors may increase a person’s risk:
According to a
For instance, the air inside flight cabins is usually dry and lower in pressure. This can cause water to more quickly evaporate during breathing and from the surface of the skin.
People may also drink less during flights than they ordinarily would. Finally, jet lag may lead to disruptions in someone’s drinking habits.
However, the authors highlight that further research is necessary to determine the exact dehydrating effect of flying.
According to the CDC, jet lag occurs when someone’s usual daily rhythms do not align with a new time zone.
This sleeping issue typically arises when traveling across at least three time zones, but it can arise from smaller disruptions. Jet lag can cause problems with mood, concentration, and tiredness.
Although jet lag can occur no matter what direction a person travels, a 2018 analysis suggests flying eastward
Airplanes are confined spaces where people usually experience close proximity to others. Although the CDC recommends that individuals with acute or infectious illnesses, such as influenza, delay their travel, this may not always happen.
People on airplanes may be at risk of acquiring a virus through direct contact, such as touching the same surfaces as someone with an active, acute infection.
The CDC also suggests that cabin air pressure may cause dry eyes or exacerbate certain chronic conditions, including anemia or conditions affecting the heart and lungs.
According to the CDC, the most common medical events that occur on airplanes include:
The best way to prepare for a flight may depend on the travel duration and the specific health conditions a person has. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service suggests:
- wearing loose, comfortable clothing
- using compression socks
- walking around during long flights
- keeping hydrated
- storing luggage overhead to give the legs more room
- avoiding alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or sleeping medication
- performing regular anti-DVT exercises, such as heel raises
- getting plenty of rest before traveling
- changing sleeping routines before flying to reduce the risk of jet lag
- avoiding large meals before traveling
- taking medication, such as antihistamines, to help prevent travel sickness
People can also speak with a healthcare professional before flying if they have concerns about their health on the trip.
Below are some common questions people ask about flying.
Does flying increase inflammation?
Is flying bad for someone‘s health?
Flying can have various adverse effects on someone’s health. Some of these are temporary, such as airplane ear and jet lag. Others can be extremely serious, such as DVT.
However, the CDC states that illness as a direct result of flying is not common. Many people fly every year without experiencing health issues.
Should some people avoid flying?
Some individuals are at
Anyone concerned about how flying could affect their health can discuss this with a doctor.
Most people will fly on airplanes without any issues. However, flying can cause or increase the risk of temporary and severe health complications, including jet lag, dehydration, changes in blood pressure, and DVT.
Airplanes also entail being in close proximity to other people and could contract acute infections, such as the flu.
Preventive tips can help someone stay safe when traveling, including washing hands regularly, wearing compression socks, and keeping hydrated.