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Even with pressurized cabins, the air traveler is subjected to reduced air pressure equivalent to an altitude of approximately 8000 feet. While, under most condi­tions, a traveler will adjust to this change in pressure without even noticing it, certain physical problems may complicate air travel. Travelers suffering from hay fever, colds, or other upper respiratory infections can find that the ailment spreads to their ears and sinuses with sudden changes in pressure. Congestion may also prevent the equalization of pressure in the ears and sinuses, causing considerable discomfort. A physician should be consulted for recommendations on deconges­tant nose drops or inhalers before air travel.


Since one breathes less oxygen with the lowering of cabin pressure, a potential hazard exists for travelers with breathing difficulties or with tissues already short of oxygen, as in emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, or anemia. A sudden deficiency in oxygen may precipitate an epilepsy seizure. The traveler's physician might recommend that arrangements be made with an airline for an oxygen tank and mask to be available in flight. Travelers whose tissues are starved for oxygen need to rest during a flight. On the other hand, prolonged sitting is hazardous for travelers with thrombophlebitis and some other types of circulatory disorders. Such passengers need to move about frequently during long flights.


Jet lag, or the physical and emotional fatigue a traveler may suffer after high-speed air travel across several time zones, is another travel-related problem that may be encountered. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) estimates that it will take a traveler one day to recover completely from each hour of time-zone change. Thus, if a traveler crossed five time zones, while he or she might be noticeably out of sorts for only the first couple of days, a complete return to status quo will not be realized for five days. The older or more out of shape the traveler, the longer the recovery.


Suggestions for minimizing jet lag include: avoid working immediately upon arrival; catch up on some sleep as soon as possible; try to stay on a regular eating/sleeping schedule; pace yourself so as not to do too much the first few days; get some light exercise before bedtime; and try to make some of the time adjustments a few days before travel (i.e., going to bed an hour earlier each night if traveling east, and an hour later if traveling west).


Altered eating patterns before and during a flight may help reduce jet lag. For example: three days before the flight, eat three full meals; two days before the flight, eat three low-calorie, low-carbohydrate meals; one day before the flight, eat three full meals again; en route, drink coffee or tea without milk or sugar, refrain from drinking alcohol or eating the offered meal, try to sleep; and the morning after the flight, eat a high-protein breakfast.