Long journeys by plane: what happens to the body

After the period linked to the pandemic, people have started to travel again, often even to distant places that need to be done long airplane flights.

In addition to boredom and jet lag in these cases it can happen having to deal with big or small nuisancesrelated to the fact that spending several hours at a high altitude and with the conditions that arise inside the cabin can be stressful for the body.

Negative effects of a long flight

Possible dehydration

During a very long journey it is not uncommon to experience a feeling of dryness in the throat, but also in the eyes and nose.

These events, if not present before taking off, are not linked to a seasonal malaise but to the fact that the body in flight tends to dehydrate. If the journey lasts a short time, the phenomenon may be imperceptible but the more hours increase, the more evident it becomes, given that it is possible to reach a liter and a half of water in about three hours of flight.

Dehydration on an airplane is perfectly normal and it is due to cabin pressurizationnecessary for oxygen levels to remain within the safe threshold, which leads to a drop in humidity levels.

To avoid dehydration and reduce discomfort in the nose, throat and eyes, the most immediate solution is to remember to drink a large amount of water first to take flight. Avoid Instead the spiritsbecause their diuretic effect is exactly contrary to what is needed, as well as the coffeewith dehydrating power.

People who usually wear contact lenses and have particularly sensitive eyes should also prefer glasses during the flight because the dry eyes that can occur at high altitudes can in turn generate discomfort and irritation.


In flight there pressurization of the cabin is stable but during take-off and landingwhen the aircraft climbs and descends, the pressure in turn it is fluctuating and this suddenness can lead to various ailments.

The most common is the ear pain due to the fact that when the internal pressure of the cabin changes it impacts on the Eustachian tube and this is not always able to react quickly to get used to the condition. If it doesn’t happen, the ears may plug up and start to hurt.

To prevent this discomfort or pain you can start chewing gum a few minutes before going up or down or yawning. These actions, in fact, allow air to circulate more and bring the pressure inside the ear back to its standard levels.


Airplane headaches are also common, to the point where the term even exists airplane headache.

In this case, studies have not yet clarified exactly what would cause it, but as with earache, it seems that the responsibility lies with the cabin pressure.

The only way to try and prevent this headache is take a pain reliever about half an hour before take-off.


When you go to the mountains you may feel more tired, and the same happens when you are on a plane, due to thealtitude and pressure inside the aircraft which causes the hemoglobin saturation to drop as a result of decreasing oxygen levels.

In this condition, in order to use as little energy as possible, the body reacts by falling asleep or by sending a stimulus of strong tiredness which induces it.

The longer the flight, the more drowsy you feel and the only real solution is to give in.

Swelling in the legs and circulation problems

Flying can also lead to develop circulation problems and swelling in the legs. The reasons in this case are many and range from pressure to dehydration, up to more practical factors such asinability to move for a long time, confined spaces in which one is forced and uncomfortable seats.

In case you don’t suffer from these problems at times other than the flight, it may be sufficient take a short walk in the hallway of the cabin to relieve them, but if you are prone to swelling or circulation problems, before embarking on a long flight it is advisable to consult your doctor who can suggest any measures to take.

This precaution should also be taken by subjects at risk, i.e. obese, elderly, pregnant or postpartum people, with family histories of blood clots, with ongoing hormone replacement therapy or who use an oral contraceptive.

During long flights it would also increase the risk of blood clots. Specifically, there would be a 26% higher risk for every two hours of air travel, after the four hours of flying.

To avoid this risk it is advisable to walk in the cabin if possible and stay hydrated.

Especially useful to prevent blood clots also wear graduated compression stockings.

Source: www.my-personaltrainer.it

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