Health risks of frequent flying
In a moment you stare out the window, notice other flights in their hangars and the next you find everything that falls back with a tremendous onslaught, and you count out of the ground up to 20,000 feet in the air within minutes! The first flight is always a wonderful experience for many, which is naturally coupled with a sudden jerk of anxiety and excitement. But what most people do not know is that frequent flying has its own share of adverse health effects. Humans are terrestrial organisms that are biologically designed to function and exist conveniently near sea level. So every time we enter a climate that goes beyond what we normally inhabit, we become prone to certain risks or dangers that can affect our health.
How can Flying Impact our health?
When we speak of flying, several factors come into the picture; the most common is the atmospheric pressure, the gas concentrations, the temperature and the most important of all, the altitude. Flying makes our bodies go around to deal with each of those elements that behave differently when we are near the sea level.
# For long-distance passengers and frequent airmen, the most obvious side effect is known as jet lag. This problem occurs when the internal clock of the body (the clock tells when it is time to sleep and be awake) by crossing several time zones within a short period of time (eg, east to west or west to east ) Is disturbed. Jetlag can trigger:
loss of appetite
General feeling of discomfort
Abnormal fatigue during the day
# A health risk that divers should be careful before flying is decompression sickness. This condition can cause unpleasant and sometimes severe symptoms in people who fly shortly after diving. Common symptoms may be:
Deep, sharp pain; Normally located
Itching and swelling of the skin
‘Pens and needles’ Sensation, numbness or spasm
Paralysis in the legs
Headache, abnormal fatigue
Loss of balance
hardness of hearing
# High altitude disease is another health hazard for people who fly frequently. Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), this problem occurs when one does not receive enough oxygen as it goes fast from lower altitudes to 8000 feet or higher. Symptoms caused by this condition may include:
Weakness and abnormal lethargy
loss of appetite
General feeling of discomfort
Although most modern passenger aircraft are designed to maintain a cab height of approximately 8,000 feet, most long-haul pilots still experience some of these symptoms. Some people compared the effects of altitude sickness, similar to a hangover. Symptoms such as disorientation, restless gait, fainting and lips or nails blue or gray show a severe case of altitude sickness.
# A common physiological effect that is felt during a flight, especially in a long distance, is dehydration. Most aircraft cabins have a relative humidity of less than 20%. This is intended to keep the structure and the avionics of the aircraft from any damage that can result from condensation. However, this moisture is lower than what is required by the body to avoid dehydration (more than 30%). Therefore, it is common that aviator symptoms such as:
Dry and scratchy eyes
Atemprobleme for people with conditions like asthma
Unconsciousness (severe dehydration)
Low humidity can also make people more susceptible to respiratory infections. These symptoms may be more severe for people who have taken frequent flying trips if they are not constantly hydrating.
# The ascent and descent of a flight causes the gases trapped in the body to expand and contract. This results in a difference between the air pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure in the environment. This condition is known as aircraft ear or ear barotrauma. Its most common symptoms are:
Light to severe earaches
Feeling of something that blocks the auditory canal
Ringing in the ear
In severe cases, passengers can also bleed from their ear, experience hearing loss, toothache or pain in the gastrointestinal tract.
# Most experts consider deep venous thrombosis (DVT) to be a potential health risk of frequent flying, especially for people who perform long-distance trips. This condition occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs. The main cause of the problem is to be stationary or live a long while while you are flying or traveling by car. In healthy individuals, the blood clot is normally dissolved by the body without causing long-term effects. But if the blood clot is large and it does not dissolve, then it can dissolve, travel through the blood circulation and block in the lungs, which block the blood supply. This is known as pulmonary embolism, which can be lethal if not treated immediately. However, the chances of developing DVT during the journey are usually less if not accompanied by one or more risk factors such as pregnancy, the history of the disease of DVT or pulmonary embolism, cancer, blood clotting disorders or the use of hormone replacement therapy.
# While Jetlag is a familiar term for almost all airmen, cosmic radiation is usually unheard of. Cosmic rays are highly energetic particles that originate from space and bombard the Earth. But thanks to the earth’s atmosphere and the magnetic field, cosmic radiation makes up only 8% of the total radiation we receive annually. The more we move from our atmosphere to space, the more vulnerable we become to this radiation. In view of this fact, people who fly frequently are exposed to more cosmic radiation than those who rarely fly or do not fly at all. Research suggests that pilots and flight attendants are exposed to 4.6 millisieverts (mSv) radiation per year compared to radiation workers in ground-based industries, in the case of which exposure is 3.6 mSv. As aircraft crews and people who fly at least once or twice a week are exposed to higher levels of radiation over time, they can be more susceptible to skin cancer, leukemia or prostate cancer. However, recent studies show that the chances of developing cancer from cosmic radiation are lower than other factors that we encounter at ground level. Also, some studies have shown no significant health effects of radiation on either aircraft crew or passengers.
Other problems of frequent flying
Short episodes of psychosis
Exposure to pollutants such as ozone, air mixed with jet oil and combustion products of jet oil
Transmission of infections such as colds and flu through the air-filter systems
Frequent flying is something that is inevitable for business people who are always on the move. And speaking of pilots or flight attendants, the above health risks can be attributed to occupational risks. Most of these risks can not usually interfere with people who are otherwise healthy, but they can be a concern for those with certain chronic diseases. To advise their GP or doctor before embarking on a flight, especially a long haul can provide some help in reducing some of these health risks. Good Trip!