It comes as no surprise that flying is one of the most popular and convenient ways to get around. In some places, flying between two destinations is cheaper than going by car or train! Of course, there are some drawbacks to flying as you might expect.
One of them, and it’s a topic few people know that much about, is dehydration from air travel. Especially when you’re on a long-haul flight to the other side of the world. People get dehydrated on flights more than say doing a lot of walking because of one thing: a lack of humidity.
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HUMIDITY
You are perhaps well aware that all flights are air conditioned. Because of the heights that planes soar to, it’s not possible to open a window and breathe the outside air. To get around that problem, all modern planes have climate-controlled air conditioning.
Have you ever noticed that an air conditioned office always makes you feel thirsty? That’s because of the lower relative humidity levels in them. The same thing applies to the cabins on all planes. In a nutshell, air conditioning cools down a room or area by decreasing humidity.
The air inside of a plane’s cabin is much drier than a typical home or office room on the ground. In those non-air-conditioned rooms, humidity levels are usually at a comfortable 30 – 65%. But, the levels inside of a plane’s cabin are often 10%. To put that into perspective, that’s the typical level of an arid desert like the Sahara! No wonder it’s easy to end up travel dehydrated.
THE OTHER WAYS THAT LOW HUMIDITY CAN IMPACT YOUR BODY
Perhaps the obvious sign that you’re in a low humidity environment is when you start to feel thirsty. The thing is, you may not realise that other bad things could be happening to your body too. And the longer you don’t hydrate yourself, the worse things can become.
To give you an idea of what’s going on if you feel dehydrated, it’s important to learn more about how your body works.
You may not know it. But, our bodies are mostly made up of water. In fact, around 70% of our body weight comprises of the stuff! Water is an essential element that we need to survive. Approximately 80% of the water contained in our bodies gets stored in cells. These are the components of our bodies that provide energy and keep us alive.
Water gets used for blood and our digestive system. It’s also needed to produce sweat when we’re doing physical activities. And, of course, for tears if we cry. Water also helps our bodies become pH neutral and to enrich oxygen.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENS TO OUR BODIES WHEN WE BECOME DEHYDRATED?
When you’re sitting in a plane for hours, you’ve no choice but to breathe in the dry air around you. After a short period, you will soon start to feel dehydrated. So, apart from feeling thirsty, what else happens to our bodies when that occurs?
You’ll soon notice other signs of dehydration. Examples include a dry nose and itchy skin. The dry air around you isn’t the only reason why you are feeling dehydrated.
There is also the lower pressure inside the cabin than at sea level. Something few people know about is that low pressure will cause less oxygen to be absorbed by your blood.
As time goes on, if you don’t hydrate your body other things will happen with your body. First of all, your body will find it hard to regulate its core temperature. Second, you will experience low blood pressure (due to a lower volume of blood).
And, third, you’re at a greater risk of developing stomach ulcers. That’s because your stomach uses water to create mucus. In a nutshell, it’s a protective membrane that stops acid attacking it.
As if that wasn’t enough, you will also start feeling tired, cranky and lethargic. Water is a fundamental component of glycogen, a glucose storage facility for our muscles. After several hours without water, you’ll find even walking to the WC a struggle.
HYDRATION FOR FLIGHTS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
As you can appreciate, staying dehydrated on long flights does you no favours. Luckily, it’s easy enough to avoid suffering from that problem. Here are ten simple long flight tips that you can follow the next time you fly:
- Drink plenty of water
Perhaps the most obvious thing you should do is maintain your body’s level of water. You don’t need to drink several litres of water in one sitting or anything that extreme! The general rule is to drink little and often.
Before you even step on board a plane, you should carry a large bottle of water with you. Sure, you can ask for water from the flight attendants. But, it’s more convenient to have your own supply for the duration of your flight.
- Take a hydration supplement
Water is a good base for keeping you hydrated. But, what it won’t do is provide all the energy your body needs. Your aim is to get off the flight feeling fresh and energised. One thing you could do is take some oral hydration supplements during your flight.
For example, you could create a flight hydration drink with O.R.S. tablets. They are a sure-fire way to keep your body’s pH levels balanced. Plus, your body will feel more energised. The bonus of O.R.S. tablets is they are available in a range of different flavours. That means they will also taste great too!
- Avoid drinking diuretic drinks
In layman’s terms, a diuretic drink is one that makes you urinate more often. Examples include tea, coffee, and alcohol. When you’re on a long haul flight, it’s important to avoid such beverages. Water might sound like a boring drink to you. But, it will help keep you feeling hydrated and refreshed.
There’s nothing stopping you from drinking tea or coffee before you board your flight. Just try to avoid doing so while you’re in the air.
- Bring some eye drops with you
One of the effects of flying is that you’ll have dry eyes because of the low humidity levels. Rubbing your eyes when they feel irritable will only compound the problem. A simple solution to that issue is to use some eye drops.
You can buy them over the counter from your local pharmacy or opticians. They are especially useful for those that wear contact lenses.
- Use some skin moisturiser
Have you noticed that your skin is feeling dry when you go on long haul flights? That’s because there is less moisture in the air! Believe it or not, skin moisturiser is a useful product to have when you’re flying.
It allows your external skin to feel hydrated and acts as a barrier to the low humidity. You’ll end up with skin that won’t flake, feel dry or itchy.
- Wash your hands and face
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If you forget to pack some skin moisturiser for your flight, what else could you do? Well, on a long haul flight, there is a simple trick you can follow.
Every few hours, consider going to the WC. You can then wash your hands and face with water, and “pat” yourself dry with a towel. Doing so means you can keep your skin hydrated if you don’t have any moisturiser to hand.
- Take a nasal spray with you
You might think that a dry nose is the only bad thing that could happen to your nasal area. But, some people experience nosebleeds – and only while they fly!
Sure, it’s one of the lesser known issues of dehydration and flying. But, if that’s something that affects you, a nasal spray can help to prevent nosebleeds. Again, they are available as over the counter products from pharmacies everywhere.
- Asthmatic? Check you’ve got enough inhalers for your journey
Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects millions of people. One of the advantages of air conditioning is that asthmatics don’t have worsened symptoms. That’s because the air has less moisture and is generally cleaner.
But, the disadvantage of flying is that the lower pressure can cause problems. That’s why it makes sense to check you’ve got enough inhalers with you before you fly. Especially if you become dehydrated and are struggling to breathe.
- Sprinkle your face with water using a perfume or aftershave bottle
When your favourite bottle of perfume or aftershave is empty, don’t throw it away! You can clean it out and fill up with water before you fly. Why would you do that? You can use it to spray water on your face while you’re sat in your seat.
It’s a convenient alternative to washing your face in the WC. Plus, you can top it up with water with ease at any time.
- Put a wet handkerchief on your face
Don’t want to breathe in the dry air? You could just apply a wet handkerchief to your face. It only needs to cover your nose and mouth. The result is that the air you breathe in will be moister than the air around you.
Hopefully you will know understand how to stay hydrated on a plane and why it is important.