The modern marvel known as flight is just amazing. I mean seriously, 100 years ago, could anyone ever dream that one day we’d be flying around the world in less time than it takes to drive from New York City to El Paso?
Of course, these superlong flights can potentially leave us with a few problems…spending multiple hours on a plane can put us at risk of catching whatever illnesses our fellow passengers have. Sitting for so long can make your legs swell up, or possibly even develop a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis – a.k.a. blood clot in your leg). You’re going to be in a different time zone from what your body is used to (hello, jet lag!). And honestly, just being stuck on a plane for so many hours kind of saps people of energy.
But then you land and you usually have to do…something. Go to work. Start sightseeing. Visit with family. Whatever. So you really want to get back on a normal keel as quickly as you can. Here are some ways to do it.
I’m going to go over this one first because it’s the most important. DVTs don’t always have symptoms, but if you experience any of these after sitting for a long period of time, GET TO A HOSPITAL ASAP because it could be a matter of life and death.
A DVT will typically only happen in one leg. But if both legs are swollen, especially with no other DVT symptoms, chances are that’s just typical leg swelling from having your legs down for a long time. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and you may be able to avoid leg swelling by wearing compression socks during your flight. Now, don’t worry – these aren’t your grandma’s support hose anymore. They actually look cool nowadays. Take a look.
However, once you have leg swelling, a way to get rid of it is to elevate your feet against the wall or headboard for 10 minutes or so. It allows that extra fluid that’s built up in your lower legs to get redistributed to the rest of your body. Wiggle your toes and “pump” your ankles (pull your toes up toward your head, then point your toes down) – those will help get rid of the swelling, too.
Whatever hack you have to build up your immunity, do it. I personally like Airborne. Joe is an Emergen-C kinda guy. But to help you even further, try flushing your nasal cavities out with a saline solution when you get to your hotel room – it’ll wash out the dust and plane “ick,” and hopefully any germ-carrying particles that wound up in your nose while you were on the plane.
They say it’ll take 1 day for every one or two time zones that you flew through. So if you went from Boston to Los Angeles (3 time zones), it’ll take 1 to 2 days to get on schedule. But if you’re only making a stopover in California and then are continuing on to Japan or Australia (or are on your way back), that’s going to take well over a week to get used to. But the main thing is you want to get used to the time zone you’re in as quickly as possible. Here are some ways how:
- Stay awake until bedtime. I know that’s easier said than done, especially when you’ve just taken a red eye from Washington DC to London and your body still thinks it’s 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. But the sooner you can get into a “normal time” sleep pattern, the better.
- If you just can’t stay awake, don’t nap for long. A 4-hour nap will not help you in the long run. Limit it to an hour.
- Wake up at a normal time. When you finally do allow yourself to go to sleep (and again, I’ve been there…this night owl has gone to bed at 8pm when traveling east. “It’s late enough!!!”), you don’t want to sleep for 15 hours straight because you’re just undoing all the effort you made to go to bed at a normal hour.
Having No Energy
Between sitting and doing not much for so long, and the dry air with lower oxygen levels inside the cabin, lots of people just have no energy after they’ve gotten off a plane. You may want to get some fresh air to wake your brain up a little, get a massage at the airport to get your blood flowing more, or maybe even do some exercise (which may also help to get rid of that leg swelling. Just sayin’).
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary