Um, your taste buds go numb. That’s right: NUMB.
We’ve all been there: Flying makes us feel dehydrated, tired or nauseous. Maybe the food you’re eating tastes gross or you feel claustrophobic in your seat. Though the effects might be subtle, the reality is that real changes are occurring in your body. Conditions such as constant pressure, cramped spaces and changing time zones all have their way with you during a flight.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common side effects of air travel.
You get dehydrated.
#TheThirst is real. Why do we get a sudden craving for something to drink? The reason has to do with the quality of the air. The air that’s pumped into the cabin tends to be dry, which causes us to exhale at a faster rate. All the moisture leaves our mouth and we are left to breathe the dry, recirculated air.
Your skin loses moisture and your risk of melanoma increases.
The dry air and cabin pressure don’t only affect your thirst; they also wreak havoc on your skin. Skin can dry up and tighten up, which you may not even notice until you change altitude. And, because of the high exposure to UV rays coming through the windows, the risk of melanoma in pilots and flight attendants is twice as great as that of the general population. Time to invest in a 3-ounce sunscreen, maybe?
Your taste buds go numb.
Passengers often complain that airline food is very bland or doesn’t have any taste at all. Blame your taste buds for the lack of flavor. One-third of your taste buds tend to go numb while flying because of the high altitude and cabin pressure. Our perceptions of tastes such as sweetness and saltiness go out the window (pun intended), so don’t expect your critiques of the dining options to be accurate.
The lack of oxygen makes you tired.
Is it time to take a nap? Plane cabins try to replicate an elevation of 6,000–8,000 feet on Earth. Because of the elevation, oxygen levels are lower, which can lead to dizziness and fatigue. Jet lag is common because our bodies fail to adjust right away to the different time zones.
Gas builds up and expands in your body.
While flying, your body may start to inflate like a ballon. Gas spreads throughout your stomach and intestines, causing you to feel stomach pain or bloating and even get sick. The expanding of gas also affects your ears. Ear popping is common during the plane’s descent because of the pressure changes and gas movements in your body.
Blood pools in your feet and legs, making it hard to move.
If your legs tend to fall asleep more often on planes, that’s because blood collects in your feet and legs due to lack of movement. In certain cases, blood clots and swelling can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT). YIKES.
To prevent or counteract these conditions:
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Use moisturizer to fight off dry and tight skin.
- Walk around the cabin to prevent blood buildup in your feet and legs.
- Chew gum and move your jaw to prevent your ears from popping.
- Go to the bathroom to release some of the excess gas in your body.
- If you’re traveling across time zones, adjust your sleep schedule to the time of your destination a few days before your flight to decrease jet lag.