Notable Effects of Air Travel on the Human Body

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Notable Effects of Air Travel on the Human Body


For people who haven’t experienced flying in an airplane, the idea can be very terrifying. Although the airline industry has gone through a lot of innovations through the years to make flying safer and more comfortable, it can still be very daunting to a lot of people, even those who are not first-timers anymore. This in addition to the physical effects that hurtling thousands of feet high up in the air can wreak on the human body.

24/7 Wall St., a financial news and commentary website that covers the stock market, industry research, and government policy bearing on the economy, listed in an article several ways how flying can affect a person physically. It is said that the longer the trip, the higher the chance that one can experience these severe side effects. 


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Jet Lag

This makes the body’s internal clock derailed when a person flies through different time zones. Jet lag can affect their sleep and alertness and induce fatigue and mood changes. 

Fortunately, this is just a temporary condition that can be minimized or prevented. The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education, and research, mentioned in an article that a person can avoid jet lag by getting plenty of rest before their scheduled trip. The article also recommended that if someone is traveling east, they should try going to bed one hour earlier while if they are traveling west, to sleep one hour later. 



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Cosmic Radiation

There is a study in 2015 that showed how a solar storm can cause the body to receive a lot of radiation that might cause a significant effect. As explained by The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from academics and researchers, the high altitude that planes attain during a flight means thinner air in the surrounding and fewer molecules that deflect the incoming cosmic rays. 



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Altered Taste

Tomato juice seems to be the preferred drink during flights, and for good reason. Somehow it tastes so much better up there. This is because savory tastes are heightened at high altitudes because of the low pressure that makes taste buds less sensitive so that sweets are not as strongly felt. There was an instance in 2018 when United Airlines tried to remove tomato juice from its menu, but people expressed their outrage that the airline was forced to bring it back.



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Sensitive Skin

The thinner air inside the plane can make the skin dehydrated. The humidity in the cabin can dry out the skin by 37 percent. Dry skin can be itchy since the oil gets trapped underneath. The skin tries to secrete more in order to fight dryness, and it causes pimples and breakouts.


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Motion Sickness

This is a common side effect of traveling, whether on land, sea, or air, the latter most especially. Motion sickness occurs when the body, inner ear, and the eyes are sending inconsistent signals to the brain. A person might suffer from cold sweats, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. One can get over motion sickness if they get used to the sensations of their new environment.


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Swollen Feet and Ankles

It might be unfamiliar to some people, but the swelling is common during long-haul flights. Since the body is sitting down too much, the blood flow might slow down and pool in the leg veins. This is usually harmless and easily taken care of by simply walking around the cabin every hour or so and by not wearing tight clothing. Swelling can easily happen to people who have had surgery or are pregnant.



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Mood Changes

Air travels can change someone’s mood. This is because of the disruption in the circadian rhythm during the flights. The medical community is still not certain as to why this happens, but there are studies that mentioned that these changes can cause depression and elevated rates of manic/hypomanic episodes.



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