Air Travel Health Tips
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
How can I improve plane travel?
Most people don’t have any problems when they fly, but it’s possible to make airplane travel safer and more comfortable.
Here are some tips:
- Carry enough of all of your medicines to last your whole trip in your carry-on luggage. Ask your healthcare provider whether you should change your dosages if your eating and sleeping times will change at your destination. Take extra medicine with you in case your return trip is delayed.
- If you have diabetes or epilepsy, carry a notification and identification card. Have the name and phone number of your healthcare provider with you in case of an emergency. Remember to bring along the names and dosages of all of your medicines.
- The air in airplanes is dry, so drink non‑alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages and water to avoid becoming dehydrated.
What can I do about jet lag?
- Get plenty of sleep before you leave.
- Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
- Eat well-balanced meals.
- Avoid overeating.
- Exercise as much as you can on your trip.
- Use sleep medicines for only a few days.
- Get used to a new time zone by going along with the local meal and bedtime schedules.
Melatonin may help with jet lag, but no one knows how long it can be used safely. Tell your healthcare provider if you plan to take melatonin or any other herbal or alternative medicines.
What about pain in my ears?
If your ears hurt when you fly, try taking a decongestant medicine (such as pseudoephedrine) before you get on the plane. You can also swallow often and chew gum during the flight. Babies can suck on bottles or pacifiers during the flight.
What else should I do?
Even healthy people can get blood clots in their legs after long flights. Try to walk every now and then during your flight (unless the crew tells you not to). It also helps to drink water, stretch your calf muscles while you’re sitting and wear support stockings.
If your healthcare provider wants you to take oxygen when you travel, remember to tell the airline about this well in advance of your flight. Some airlines may accept certain gaseous oxygen and portable oxygen concentrators on their aircraft, but you will need to advise the airline of any oxygen needs at least 48 hours prior to travel. There may also be oxygen services available to you for a fee. You’ll have to make arrangements ahead of time for oxygen at your destination and also for layovers between flights. You can also arrange for special meals or a wheelchair ahead of time if needed.
It’s dangerous to fly immediately after scuba diving. You’ll need to wait 12 to 24 hours after diving. Ask your healthcare provider or diving authorities for guidelines on flying after scuba diving.
Medical Advice for Commercial Air Travelers by TN Bettes, M.D., M.P.H., and DK McKenas, M.D., M.P.H. (09/01/99, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990901ap/801.html)