Air Travel Dangers
Flying has become one of the most popular ways to travel. Whether people are traveling domestically or internationally, millions of people are flying in airplanes every day. However, most people do not think about the dangers and risks of flying. While some people could develop mild symptoms, such as nausea or fatigue, there are serious medical problems that can occur. They can include jet lag, hearing loss, thrombosis, and exposure to radiation and diseases, such as COVID-19.
Commonly known as jet lag, desynchronosis is a temporary sleep disorder that people may develop when they travel long distances over multiple time zones. People can struggle to conform to the new hours in a different time zone. As a result, an individual with jet lag can experience extreme fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and an inability to concentrate. Fortunately, jet lag is a mild problem that should only last a few days.
After long exposures to loud sound over 85 decibels (dB), individuals can contract permanent hearing damage. In fact, the loudest sounds inside an airplane cabin, including taking off and landing, can reach up to 105 decibels. Once the plane reaches its cruising altitude and speed, the noise levels will drop to only 85 decibels. It is common for passengers to develop “airplane ear” while on flights. Airplane ear occurs when the air pressure in a person’s ear is unbalanced compared to the environment. To help to prevent the unnecessary stress on their eardrum, many people choose to chew gum while on the plane to stabilize the pressure. For example, if a company employee is required to fly at least a few times a month, they may be susceptible to developing a reduction in their hearing.
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel. It is extremely dangerous because it has the capability to prevent blood from properly moving throughout the circulatory system. In terms of air travel, passengers can develop “traveler’s thrombosis”, which occurs as a result of being in a cramped and immobile position on a plane. Also, thrombosis doesn’t require a long duration of time to develop. It is recommended that certain precautions are taken for high risk passengers who are pregnant, had a recent surgery, or have experienced a history of blood clots. Wearing comfortable clothing, stretching, and walking around the cabin will help to prevent this condition.
Passengers and staff are exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation, a form of radiation that consists of x-rays and gamma rays produced in outer space. When flying in an airplane, people are exposed to low levels of radiation. Although these levels are relatively small and are unlikely to affect a person’s health, frequent or extended flights could increase the amount of radiation. It is proven that three factors affect the amount of radiation: altitude, latitude, and the duration of the flight. The higher the airplane flies in altitude, the greater amount of radiation exposure. This is because the atmosphere’s ability to block cosmic radiation is weakened at high elevations. Also, the atmosphere tends to divert cosmic radiation from the Equator towards the North and South Poles. Therefore, people can receive more radiation when traveling further from the Equator.
People should also be aware of viral diseases before they book a flight. Passengers are exposed to hundreds of people not only in airplanes, but also in airports. Commercial airplanes can have as many as 500 filled seats, resulting in their passengers being exposed to unknown germs and illnesses at any moment.
It is always a good idea to plan ahead when traveling. Weather conditions negatively affect the normal operations of airplanes. Fog, rain, and low clouds can hinder visibility for the pilots. Severe thunderstorms, freezing rain, and natural disasters may modify flight schedules.
Although the possibilities of people developing symptoms vary, people must be aware of these problems when considering to schedule a flight. If you are able to travel by car, train, or another source, it would be beneficial to consider doing so. Whether you are flying for work or vacation, you should take precautions to ensure that you will have a safe and comfortable flight.