Time to Read
- Cold and Flu
- Jet Lag
Most healthy, fit people don’t face very serious risks when travelling. However long-haul journeys, hours of remaining sedentary and jet lag can pose easily avoided threats to your health and comfort.
Travelling and vacationing can be a lot of planning and stress, even before considering seemingly minor things such as what socks to wear on the plane. But your health has the potential to severely limit your activity while you’re travelling, and a hospital trip abroad is a sure-fire way to ruin plans, especially on a long-awaited getaway with loved ones.
It’s worth including items like pill organisers and compression socks (we recommend KYMIRA’s Infrared compression socks!) on your shopping list and prioritising your health when you travel.
Circulation is crucial for your overall health, and when your circulatory system performs at its peak your body benefits from the efficient delivery of oxygen and other key nutrients to your brain, muscles and organs. Hours of inactivity in narrow seats can lead to poor circulation, blood clots, swollen feet, or even trigger conditions such Deep Vein Thrombosis (Check out the NHS website for symptoms and treatment of DVT).
It’s important to take steps to prepare yourself before embarking on a long-haul flight or a long road trip, and to take steps throughout the journey to encourage circulation in your legs and feet:
Before your journey, ensure you are well-hydrated by drinking lots of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol – although it may be tempting to indulge in both at the airport. Your clothing will also help promote circulation, and we recommend loose clothing and compression stockings with open toes. If you’re particularly at risk of circulatory complications, your doctor may give you advice or medication, so it’s important that you take the steps necessary to stay healthy and comfortable when travelling.
If you’re on a long-haul flight, try to get up whenever possible to visit the bathroom or stretch your legs. When seated, avoid crossing your legs and try to flex your feet and ankles frequently to keep blood flowing to them and stave off the effects of being totally sedentary. If you’re on a long car or coach journey, plan regular rest stops to refuel and stretch your legs every couple of hours or as you need them.
It’s a commonly held belief that planes – and most forms of communal transport – are hotbeds for bacteria and can cause illnesses that will put a damper on your trip. Around 20% of people develop symptoms of a common cold within a week of flying commercially, and it’s not surprising given that low air pressure and oxygen levels have been observed to compromise immune function for a few days after long-haul flights.
In any context, long exposure to a large group of people in an enclosed space is bound to increase your chances of contracting a virus so it’s worth thinking about how best to combat this and avoid spending the week after with ‘the sniffles’.
Air conditioning on planes is generally considered to contribute to the spread of germs on flights, but this is a common misconception. In actuality, the fresh air it provides could be the key to protecting yourself from sharing stale air with other passengers which could contain airborne diseases. Two very real risks of air conditioning are that you may get slightly cold, and could also get quite a dry throat and skin- so it’s a good idea to bring a jacket and stay hydrated while sat under the AC.
Travelling across time zones will inevitably disrupt your sleeping pattern, and probably cause you to feel tired and irritable for the first day or so of a trip. But there’s more danger in the time difference than just a loss of sleep or accidentally waking up loved ones with a 3am phone call!
A slightly less obvious risk to your health when travelling is the time at which you take prescription medications. There’s a number of medications that require the patient to take it at the same time every day to get the full benefit, for example: the contraceptive pill. Depending on the length of your trip and the time difference between home and your destination, it’s a good idea to either account for the change and calculate when you need to take medication in local time – or plan to take your medications at a different time than usual. If choosing the latter option, take care not to take more than your recommended dosage for a 24-hour period.
To save you the mental maths, there are a variety of online calculators that will help you figure out when to take medication or a quick internet search will tell you what time it is back home. Many smart phones also offer a dual clock display automatically when you travel abroad, allowing you to see both time zones simultaneously displayed on your screen and always know what the time is back home.
It’s definitely worth discussing options with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your routine – and making sure you order enough of your prescribed medication to last the duration of the trip with some extra in case of unforeseen situations like delays.