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Dry skin and DVT: This is what flying does to your body, according to doctors

Simon Calder’s Travel

Doctors have revealed what long-haul flights do to your body.

There’s a reason why when you get off a long flight, you don’t exactly feel 100%. Beyond grogginess and jet lag, spending hours in a small cabin at 35,000ft, most likely without much room, can take a toll on your body in many ways.

“Sitting for eight hours or more can have serious adverse effects on your health, such as heart and respiratory health, as well as your muscles and joints,” says GP Dr Gill Jenkins.

Here’s how different parts of our bodies are affected…

What flying does to your heart

“Flying long haul can affect breathing, causing shortness of breath and sometimes chest discomfort. People at highest risk of heart issues on a plane are those who already have cardiovascular disease,” says Jenkins, who is an advisor to Deep Heat, Deep Freeze and Deep Relief.

If you have any heart issues, always check with your doctor if it’s ok for you to fly (and pack any medication needed in your hand luggage).

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“Dehydration, changing cabin air pressure and low oxygen concentration – modern aircraft are pressurised to an equivalent altitude of 6000-8000ft, so you are actually breathing in less oxygen”, can all play a part. On top of that, “sitting in a confined space limits chest movements so you don’t breathe as deeply, and increased stress [from flying] can all increase the risk of heart problems”, adds Jenkins.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots are a particular risk for those without heart disease too, for all the same reasons.

“Blood clots can occur for up to one month after flying, so be alert to symptoms such as swollen or painful legs, especially the calf, and breathing difficulties (clots can occur on the lungs too),” Jenkins says.

To reduce risk, keep well hydrated and don’t drink alcohol during your flight, and stretch and move around as much as possible.

What flying does to your stomach

A change in humidity can also cause havoc on your stomach.

“Aeroplane cabins have low humidity levels, which can cause dehydration and lead to digestive issues such as constipation and discomfort,” says Dr Simon Theobalds, GP at Pall Mall Medical.

“The change in cabin pressure can also cause gas expansion in the stomach, leading to bloating or discomfort. Prolonged sitting during long…

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