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  Taking the plane

Questions to ask before you fly

You have carefully chosen where you want to go, but what about how you’re going to get there?
How long is the flight? What time will you leave? How long in transit once you’ve landed? Are you planning a calm, relaxing holiday or an exciting, often tiring road trip? Is your destination well adapted to your physical condition and your daily habits?

Before you leave, it’s important to discuss these questions and the consequences of making a long flight, with your doctor. It is particularly essential if: 

  • You have a cold, sinus trouble or an ear ache or ear infection
  • You suffer from a chronic illness, notably: insulin-dependent diabetes, asthma, allergies, epilepsy, drepanocytosis, respiratory insufficiency, heart or kidney failure
  • You are receiving treatment for cancer or an immune deficiency
  • You have panic attacks (agoraphobia or claustrophobia)
  • You recently had an operation, particularly in the case of coronary insufficiency (angioplasty or bypass surgery), glaucoma, detachment of the retina, or a problem with the inner ear
  • You suffer from renal colic
  • You’re experiencing angina pain
  • You’re taking long-term medication
  • You cannot climb stairs without getting out of breath
  • You’ve recently had a vascular brain accident
  • Your doctor discovered that you have rhythmic or cardiac conduction trouble, which may cause fainting
  • You wear a pacemaker
  • You are pregnant or you plan on travelling with children.

The stress of leaving

Leaving is always accompanied by stress and can cause anxiety, discomfort, feeling faint or even falling down. By following these simple measures, you can prevent harmful consequences from occurring: 

  • Arrive early to where you’re supposed to be
  • If necessary, get someone to accompany you to help you check-in and carry your luggage
  • Take along a light-weight, carry-on bag that contains your customary medication (never put it in your suitcase or in the luggage compartment of the airplane), your passport, vaccination booklet, travel documents (tickets, boarding card, etc.), your money (cash, traveller’s checks, credit cards…), a few personal toiletries for freshening up, and a large bottle of water
  • Before flying, avoid eating starchy foods, dairy products or fizzy drinks…Gas contained in the digestive track dilates in high altitudes and causes a bloating sensation.
    If you are afraid of flying, contact your airline company. Workshops are offered to help you overcome this fear. Consult your family doctor. He too can offer advice and help you feel more at ease.

During the flight

The atmosphere in an airplane is extremely dry (relative hygrometry is less than 10%) at an imaginary altitude of 1500 – 2500 meters. These two factors are the source of several discomforts, which can be easily addressed. Just follow the advice below:  

  • To combat dry air:  drink at least 1 litre of still water every 4 hours, remove your contact lenses or humidify them regularly with individually-dosed eye drops, or use anti-inflammatory, disinfectant eye drops recommended by your ophthalmologist. 
  • To combat phlebitis:  loosen your clothing (and wear ample clothing anyway), avoid wearing tight trousers and lace-up shoes; remove your shoes and slip on a pair of comfortable socks. Do not stay in your seat the entire time, but get up regularly and walk around the cabin, and up and down the aisles. If you cannot get up and walk around frequently, don’t hesitate to exercise in place, working all the different muscle groups in your lower limbs: your feet, calves and thighs. Then relax all your muscles and breathe deeply and slowly. Your family doctor can prescribe a treatment, according to your situation, to wear support hose, or for medication for stronger veins, even anti-coagulants. 
  • To combat air sickness:  if possible, chose a seat near the centre of the aircraft, avoid eating large meals and drinking alcohol, try to sleep. If necessary take a light prescription sleeping pill that can be easily eliminated and is designated to relieve air sickness.
    During the flight, air cabin pressure is only partial; it’s a bit like going into the high mountains. There is therefore a risk of otitis due to barometric depression, which is all the more risky if you have a cold or easily get otitis or have sinus problems. In the beginning of your flight, regularly swallow your saliva, chew gum or suck on a piece of candy. Learn to do the Valsalva manoeuvre: pinch your nose, close your mouth and exhale (hold your breath), then swallow several times. Before leaving, your doctor can also prescribe an antibiotic, an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory and a local nasal vasoconstrictor.

Once you’ve reached your destination

As soon as you arrive, plan to rest a bit, if possible with your legs up. The time change usually feels the most brutal when flying west to east. You will therefore suffer from jetlag more when you fly from Europe to Asia, and when returning to Europe after a trip to the United States. Re-adapting requires as many days are there are hours of time difference. In the case of continuous medical treatment, be sure to adopt yourself gradually to the local time. If necessary, begin to change your time zone to the tune of one hour a day, two or three days before leaving.

Once you’ve arrived, the most important thing to do is to immediately follow the eating and sleeping times of your host country. Get yourself quickly synchronised to local time. Exposing yourself to light is also an important factor for helping your biological clock reset itself. The bottom line is that it’s important to stay awake during the day and to sleep at night!

If you have any problems whilst travelling, don’t wait until you get home to consult a doctor. Allianz Global Assistance’s emergency medical team is available to discuss any questions or doubts you may have about your health. We can provide useful advice and organize a consultation wherever you are.

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Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance is underwritten by AWP P&C S.A. - Dutch Branch, trading as Allianz Global Assistance Europe with offices at Poeldijkstraat 4, 1059 VM Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Registered at the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) Nº 12000535, Corporate Identification no 33094603

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