In October 2000, Emma Christoffersen aged 28 died of DVT, deep vein thrombosis, a thickening and clotting of the blood. The cramped conditions onboard a flight from Sydney to London, and the resulting lack of mobility, was to prove fatal for Emma.
Aircraft cabin conditions can cause a multitude of health concerns, especially on long-haul flights. Yet with proper information and advice these can usually be avoided.
Combine economy airfare with your body-space requirements
'Economy Class Syndrome' commonly refers to the link between cheaper fares and the increased chance of suffering from a DVT. Economy seats generally provide less space per passenger, with most airlines offering around 31 inches (i.e. the distance between a given part of the seat and the same part on the next seat). If travelling on a long-haul flight, choose an airline that offers above average seat pitch or arrange to be seated by a fire exit, which normally offers added leg room.
The second option is to maintain a level of mobility while seated. Sedentary exercises will help to keep the blood pumping, for example, rotating shoulders, flexing feet and stretching your back. These can all be done without having to leave your seat. On a long flight it is advisable to move around the cabin at regular intervals. Taking an aspirin (75mg) can also lower the risks of contracting DVT by thinning the blood.
Keep the oxygen flowing
Since the 1970s, airlines have saved on fuel costs by mixing fresh air with 50% recycled air, stale air that has passed through High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters. This can sometimes be the catalyst for the onset of bronchial infections and influenza, and in extreme cases TB. The lack of pure oxygen can also cause concentration levels to drop, leading to tiredness and sleep-induced immobility. Drinking plenty of fluids and sugary drinks to keep energy levels high can fight off the sedentary slump, and keeping the chest and head warm can help prevent colds and flu.
Asthma can also be triggered by the stuffy air conditions. Taking enough medication with you to last the trip is a must and keeping it at hand is essential. Most airlines have banned smoking from flights but when booking your ticket check with the airline that you are seated away from the smoking sections.
It is not a new revelation that radiation levels increase with altitude. As the atmosphere becomes thinner radiation is less easily absorbed. Frequent flyers are in danger of radiation overdose. The best advice is to take vitamin C and E supplements to work against free radicals, or to limit time spent travelling. Telephone conferences and e-mail can offer alternatives to constant business trips.
Be aware of your medical limitations
Pregnant travellers are safe to be air-borne up until the end of the 35th week. Remember that within the first three months there are radiation risks to the foetus. If you are diabetic take enough insulin with you to last the journey and check your latest medication requirements.