Be warned when you cross over the threshold of the airplane as you begin your winter holiday. That flying tin tube is a festering breeding ground for all sorts of unhealthy germs, especially for those passengers whose defences are weakened by pre-holiday stress.
Get It Right From the Start
Check in early! Remember all of the purest air is at the front of the aircraft. More oxygen is pumped into the front. In fact up to 50 percent purer air is circulating in the cockpit and executive class section of the airplane where there are fewer people actually breathing it in.
Forewarned is forearmed, so if you cannot afford first or executive class get to the airport early or book your seat preference through your travel agent. If you suffer from air sickness, back problems or are extremely tall, there is more space at overwing exits or bulkheads. The configuration of seats varies from airplane to airplane so ask the person at check-in for a seat with more leg room.
If you are not well or are travelling with passengers who need special care in any way, once again let the check-in staff know. They will inform the cabin crew who will be extra aware of your needs on the flight.
Many airlines carry special meals on board (vegetarian, children’s, kosher, no salt) to better serve their passengers. Ask your travel agent when you are booking your ticket if this facility is available and reserve a special meal through her. Enquire again at the check-in desk if your meal is on board as information can get lost along the line.
Stick to Water
Remember that one drink on the ground is the equivalent of three drinks in the air. The aircraft’s pressurization system is such that alcohol has a more immediate and lethal effect than it does in normal circumstances. Not only is this inadvisable for health purposes (those of you who have suffered an “airplane binge” hangover know what I’m talking about!), but it can also be a safety hazard on the aircraft.
Cramped spaces, screaming babies and stressed holiday makers are all potential factors that lead to bad temper. Add alcohol to the concoction and you have the makings of frayed nerves, edginess and even air rage. Alcohol will also tamper with the body’s ability to deal with jet lag so stick to fruit juices and drink lots of water.
Sometimes the aircraft cannot carry enough bottled water for all its passengers due to space constraints, so buy some before you board. Be sure to drink plenty of vitamin C-rich fruit juices like cranberry, apple and orange juice to combat infection from recycled germs which thrive in the air conditioning system. Take a couple of echinacea tablets before, during and after the flight to protect your health.
Earaches are a common problem amongst air travellers. Mucus build-up in the sinuses can limit air flow through the eustachian tube in the ear. As the flight begins its descent, the eustachian tube is strained by the drop in aircraft pressurization. This causes a sharp pain in the ear and in extreme circumstances can actually burst the ear drum.
Always carry Olbas oil in your hand luggage to prevent this problem. Some people put four or five drops into hot water and keep sniffing, but this is not advisable if there is turbulence. Put a couple of drops on your handkerchief and keep sniffing deeply. You should also keep chewing, drinking, swallowing and yawning to allow the air to move freely through the ear passages.
Babies and small children are hardest hit by this problem. Prepare a bottle with some juice or water or breastfeed your child for landing.
Do not hold your nose and blow! There is already a lot of pressure on your ear drum and this could be the final straw causing it to burst.
Airplane air is very dehydrating. I remember one of my first flights as an air hostess. The aircraft was winging its way across the Atlantic when the captain called the galley and asked for a sandwich. I took off the cellophane wrapper and placed the sandwich on a tray next to his seat. Twenty minutes later the captain buzzed me again.
“Do you see that,” he said, pointing to the sandwich. The bread had dried out so much that it was curled up on either side. “That’s what this air is doing to your skin,” he warned.
Drink plenty of fluids, moisturize your skin, avoid alcohol and spritz your face every now and again with a facial spritzer. You can make your own by adding two or three drops of lavender oil to pure water.
You should also keep moving to prevent fluid build-up in your feet and ankles. Take a stroll around the airplane every now and again. If trolleys are blocking your path you can do some exercises in your seat. Twirl your wrists and ankles–10 times one way and 10 times the other. Rotate your shoulders, breathe deeply from your stomach, link your fingers and stretch them out in front of you.
To avoid jet lag, get as much shut eye as possible on the airplane. Some airlines carry herbal teas, but bring your own to be safe. Camomile, valerian or lavender are all excellent choices for keeping you calm and relaxed for your flight. Remember to add peppermint tea to your arsenal to soothe an upset stomach. Bon Voyage!