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AIR TRAVEL & JETLAG

Air Travel
Most commercial jetliners are pressurised to about 1600 to 2300 m. Above 1600 m there is a risk of hypoxia (low oxygen), especially if the traveller is anaemic or has respiratory problems. The traveller, as a minimum, should be able to climb a flight of stairs without problem at sea level. Carbonated drinks are best avoided as they may cause gaseous distension which can be uncomfortable.

A particular problem of long haul air travel is deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the legs). Sitting in a cramped position for a long period favors the development of thrombosis. Take an aisle seat and stand up and walk about the cabin regularly. Tense up your legs and wriggle your toes from time to time.  see murtagh - Air Travel - Preventing DVT & Hangover

The low humidity in aircraft may cause skin dryness and discomfort of the eyes, mouth and nose but does not cause dehydration. (see WHO).  Fluids containing alcohol (or caffeine) may cause dehydration. Taking half an aspirin daily has not been shown to reduce the risk of thrombosis (blood clot) occurring in the legs. Those who have a past history of deep vein thrombosis should consider the use of injectable low molecular heparin. Discuss this with your doctor.

Remember to pack any medications you may need in your hand luggage. (sleeping tabs, headache & arthritis remedies). An inflatable travel pillow can be help with ensuring some sleep on the plane. Buy a large bottle of water at the airport before boarding. Don't rely on the flight attendants to provide you with adequate fluids.
(also Air travel and Cruise ships - http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAirTravelCruiseShips.aspx  )

Jetlag
Ideally, have a couple of good nights rest before travel and avoid last minute preparation and stress (panic). Wear loose comfortable clothes on the plane and follow advice above. Crossing multiple time zones in an eastward direction, increases jetlag.

If the arrival at your destination is in the early morning, try to stay awake and have the normal 3 meals and include a long afternoon walk in the sunshine. These strategies will help your body time clock to adjust to the new time zone. It may not be appropriate to drive or make important decisions in the first few days.

The Use of Melatonin: melatonin has been shown in some studies to speed up the recovery from symptoms of jet lag. It is suggested that melatonin is taken in the evening (10-11pm) for few days after arrival. A dose between 0.5mg and 5mg is sufficient.

Travel Sickness
One of the most popular travel sickness medications for travellers is "Travcalm". This is a combination of an antihistamine and hyoscine. Other agents such as "Stemetil" and "Maxolon' are available on script from your doctor.
see Travel Sickness sheet - www.nevdgp.org.au/info/murtagh/general/Travelsickness.htm 

A Non medicinal approach that many find effective is the use of a cassette tape containing "A unique blend of music, specific frequencies and pulses."  www.travelwell.co.uk/travelwell.htm

Information mostly taken from: "International Travel and Health" (WHO year book - internet only)
Australian Immunisation Handbook, 8th Edition - 9/2003 - Part1 - Part 2 & Part 3 (large pdf files)
Centre for Disease Control, USA -  www.cdc.gov/travel Travel Health Seminar Oct 96, June 97,Feb 98, March 99, May 2000, August 2002 & March 2005 - Victorian Medical Postgraduate Foundation.
Manual of Travel Medicine, Melbourne, Oct 2004. Updated 06/09/2006.  Additional references & disclaimer.

Last Update: 09-Sep-2006

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North East Valley Division General Practice, Victoria, Australia, Disclaimer 
Level 1, Pathology Building, Repatriation Campus, A&RMC, Heidelberg West VIC 3081. .. map
Phone: 03 9496 4333, Fax: 03 9496 4349,  Email: nevdgp@nevdgp.org.au
 
Please note: NEVDGP does not provide an on-line consultation