Dr. David Frederick Hepburn answer your questions:
Q: Why do I seem to get a cold every time I take a flight over 3 hours?
Dr. David Hepburn: The air in airplane cabins is plain oxygen deficient, dry and stale, not unlike my Aunt Sophia or her brownies. Oxygen levels are usually twenty percent less than on the ground while the Humidex can be a whopping 80% lower. Loosening up by stiffening our drinks adds to the risk of becoming dehydrated and suddenly our nostrils become a perfect storm for catching those famous airplane viruses that flight attendants secretly spray about the cabin just before boarding. To mitigate your chances of getting ill; use saline sprays to keep your nostrils moist, keep well hydrated by drinking a glass of water for every hour you fly, and even moisturize your skin using something other than Kokanee.
- Q: I am wondering if there is any risk of flying when I am pregnant and when is the best time for me to fly across country.
Dr. David Hepburn: First of all flying with your child will never be easier. While in the womb it is much more difficult to hear them and they seldom throw up on the nice doctor in the seat behind you who was just trying to help. The risk of flying for women who have normal and healthy pregnancies is minimal though pregnancy under the best of circumstances can predispose to getting a blood clot. Obviously high risk pregnancies should not be risked up high.
The best time to fly is the second trimester as the nausea and miscarriage potential drops off and the risk of preterm birth is minimal. Some airlines don’t let you fly after 36 weeks while others require you to buy 7 seats and bring hot towels and a doctor in your carry on just in case. I not only support this but suggest that third trimester moms visit Maui, Cancun and I’ve always wanted to see Brazil.
- What can I do to prevent my eardrum from making me go painfully deaf?
Dr. David Hepburn: As always, it’s important to avoid flying at all when you are congested, as even a common head cold could put you at risk of rupturing an eardrum. A simple product called EARPLANES can soften the pressure gradient across your eardrum. Though you can still hear quite well with these, the excited auctioneer beside you will think you can’t.
- How can I avoid jetlag?
Dr. David Hepburn: Stay home. Nowadays those HD Discovery Channel shows are so realistic that you feel like you’ve been to, say Mongolia, or wherever and you get to avoid
and that persistent yak hair. But for those who absolutely have to see the yaks for themsleves:
- Go to bed earlier than usual for a few nights before departure.
- Eat lightly the night before. Perhaps just one pizza instead of three.
- Rehydrate when you fly and after you land
- Don’t over-schedule yourself the first day of arrival. Allow your body to ease into its new schedule.
- How about Melatonin?
Dr. David Hepburn: The biological rhythm disorganization caused by the rapid change of environment (and associated light/dark cues) apparently can be corrected by melatonin. Melatonin when taken at the destination, between 10 pm and midnight, can offset jet lag. The benefit is greater as more time zones are crossed and less for westward flights. However, melatonin taken before travel can actually worsen symptoms as opposed to the benefit of melatonin initiated immediately upon arrival. I know of no side effects other than the occasional yak.