Planning a Visit to Your Family?

Planning a Visit to Your Family?

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 27 Feb 2013 - 17:00

Thanks to Wright brothers for inventing air planes, world has become a small place. Many people of different ages and with various medical conditions travel by flights every day all over the globe. Many intercontinental flights have journey time around 6- 24 hours. Our body needs to adjust to the time difference, cabin pressure and discomforts of long journey.
By adequate preparation and taking small precautions we can avoid common hiccups.

Some of them are as the following:

Prior to boarding a long distance flight

  • Take a good shower (You may have to wait more than24 hours to have one)
  • Make sure you take all your medications (some countries may need physician note to carry them ex: prescription pain medications also known as narcotics)
  • Get adequate rest the day before travel
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking
  • Keep a list of your pre-existing medical conditions and contact information handy in case you become unresponsive or have any urgent medical issue
  • Have a visit to your doctor to get health checkup and necessary immunizations
  • Exercise regularly to keep you fit as per your physician advice
  • Wear loose clothes to help with circulation

During the Flight:

There are certain health problems described with air travel. 
Here we list some of them and the precautions that can be taken to avoid them.

Economy class syndrome / Deep venous thrombosis (DVT)

Economy class syndrome is coined in late 70’s to describe the congested conditions in economy class of flights that lead to blood clot formation, especially in legs (DVT). Sitting for prolonged duration of time can lead to stagnation of blood in the legs, which in turn leads to clot formation in susceptible people. These blood clots can travel to lung and cause problems with breathing (PE: Pulmonary embolus). It can happen in any condition that leads to prolonged immobility (software brothers and sisters… keep this in mind).

Approximately 3-5 % of people can get blood clots in leg. Let’s discuss the risk factors for Deep venous thrombosis (DVT). 

  • Prolonged immobility
  • Birth control pills, pregnancy states which can cause increased estrogen levels.
  • Previous blood clots
  • Old age
  • Cancer
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Recent fractures and surgeries in legs and pelvis
  • Dehydration.

Precautions to be taken:

  • Frequent mobility (every 2-3 hours) like bathroom breaks (prevents blood clots and keeps blood circulating)
  • Small exercises to contract and relax leg/thigh muscles
  • I personally feel aisle seat helps as it gives you space to stretch
  • Avoid alcohol/caffeinated drinks if possible as they can make you more dehydrated
  • Drink adequate water. Electrolyte solutions are better (It can keep you hydrated and give you a chance to go to bathroom)
  • Do not take sleeping pills unless advised by your doctor. It can keep you immobilized
  • Avoid crossing legs for an extended period of time
  • Wear loose fitting cloths

People with diabetes should discuss with their doctor to adjust medications accordingly to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Jet – lag:

Jet lag is a temporary disruption of body functions due to long distance travel through various time zones in a short period of time. It can cause fatigue, headaches, anxiety, irritability and irregular sleep etc… It is said that people develop more symptoms while travelling west to east. Taking short naps during flight can help.

Motion sickness:

Due to air turbulence some people can have motion sickness. It can lead to nausea, dizziness and fatigue.

We can take the following precautions to avoid motion sickness:

  • Try to sit in the middle of the aircraft, preferably window side
  • Eat light meals
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Consult your doctor if you experienced these symptoms before


  • Always do your homework prior to your travel to an unknown or new place
  • Check with your doctor about the local diseases and preventive measures
  • Get immunizations if necessary

Have a wonderful journey.