Are you healthy enough to fly?

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th December 2006 03:00 AM

THE Christmas season is a time when many people fly away for holidays or back home. For you, we examine health requirements for a safe flight.

By Thomas Pere

THE Christmas season is a time when many people fly away for holidays or back home. For you, we examine health requirements for a safe flight.

Gilbert Mubiru, a businessman, says “There are many problems associated with flying. They include; headaches, drying up of mucous membranes, plugged ears, swollen feet and dehydration.”

How can you make flying safer?

Quarantiello Laura, in her book, Flying Healthy, says commercial aircrafts fly at an altitude between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, where the cabin air pressure is low, which makes the level of oxygen in the blood drop. This may affect people with respiratory problems. “During take off, the air pressure in the cabin decreases while trapped air in the body expands by 30%. This may hurt the eardrum,” she writes.

Another concern is jet lag, which occurs when crossing different time zones. It disrupts the body clock and causes mental and physical fatigue and disorientation.

Dr Stella Alamo, an aviation consultant with KLM and Kenya Airways says modern flying is safer. “However, it is important to take care of the pre-existing health problems that could worsen with change in altitude.” Alamo says they include blood pressure, heart problems, blood clotting and pregnancy. People with asthma, allergies, anaemia, sickle cells, brain injuries, pneumonia, ear infection and those who have undergone surgery may also be affected.

“Such people should undergo a medical check up and those who get severe attacks or are not on medication are advised not to fly. Pregnant women beyond 32 and 36 weeks are also not advised to fly because it can induce labour.”

George Mawadri, the British Airways country commercial manager tells people to avoid eating before flying. “The on board cuisine is a better alternative. It is a balanced, lighter option of fresh seasonal food with high fibre and low salt, sugar and fat content to reduce air being trapped in your stomach,” he said.
Mawadri also advises people to drink lots of fluids before the flight. However, they should avoid caffeine and alcohol because they cause dehydration.

Alamo also advises people who need to take medicine during the flight to put them in the hand luggage for easy access.

Passengers are also encouraged to wash their hands and face frequently, use moisturising lip balm and a saline spray to prevent the mucous membranes from drying out. Take frequent walks and do leg stretches to avoid blood clotting and relieve cramps.

“During climb and descents chew gum or pinch your nostrils, close your mouth and blow gently,” Mawadri says. “Yawning or swallowing can also clear the ears.”

Are you healthy enough to fly?

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