Fre­quent fly­ers’ tips to touch­ing down feel­ing fresh


We’ve all been there. Crawl­ing from an air­craft af­ter an ar­du­ous long-haul flight feel­ing like death warmed up and spend­ing the next few days blam­ing jet lag for ev­ery de­bil­i­tat­ing symp­tom from lethargy and headaches to burn­ing eyes and con­sti­pa­tion. But, more of­ten than not, the cul­prit is sim­ple de­hy­dra­tion brought on by spend­ing hours at alti­tude with­out guz­zling enough wa­ter. For Aus­tralians head­ing across con­ti­nents or oceans, fly­ing means ex­ten­sive stretches in an ar­ti­fi­cial en­vi­ron­ment with re­duced oxy­gen and as­so­ci­ated low hu­mid­ity, which can plunge be­low con­di­tions in an African desert, rapidly draw­ing mois­ture from the body.

Re­search shows that dur­ing an av­er­age 10-hour flight, women lose 1.6 litres, with closer to 2 litres for men, so fly­ers trav­el­ling between Syd­ney and Lon­don can sac­ri­fice 4 litres or 8 per cent of body wa­ter.


Jonathan Co­hen, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Travel Clin­ics Aus­tralia, says peo­ple are prone to de­hy­dra­tion while fly­ing be­cause cabin air is de­pres­surised and de­hu­mid­i­fied from the usual range of 50 to 80 per cent down to 10 or 20 per cent. “Un­less ex­tra flu­ids are con­tin­u­ously taken, the body loses a lot of wa­ter over the time of the flight and this can be com­pounded by drink­ing a lot of tea, cof­fee or al­co­hol which all have a di­uretic ac­tion to in­crease fluid loss,’’ he says.

“Symp­toms in­clude thirst, in­creased heart rate, tired­ness and feel­ing light-headed and, if more se­vere, can progress to nau­sea, men­tal cloud­ing and se­vere malaise with faint­ing a nat­u­ral body re­flex that makes us fall in or­der for blood to reach the brain. Main­tain­ing ad­e­quate hy­dra­tion is vi­tal for nor­mal func­tions, and is es­pe­cially im­por­tant when trav­el­ling as we tend to be more ac­tive.’’


Dr Co­hen says the most ef­fi­cient way to com­plete a sky-high jour­ney in good nick is to drink nour­ish­ing liq­uids dur­ing the jaunt. “The gen­eral rec­om­mended in­take is at least 1.5 to 2 litres daily – in­creased to 2 to 3 litres over a 10 to 15-hour flight – so aim to drink a glass of wa­ter or juice ev­ery hour, al­ter­nate with wa­ter between ev­ery drink con­tain­ing al­co­hol or caf­feine. Oral re­hy­dra­tion so­lu­tions like Gas­trolyte or Hy­dr­a­lyte can help.’’


Flight at­ten­dants carry their empty wa­ter bot­tle through air­port se­cu­rity, then fill the con­tainer once past the X-ray ma­chines. “Air­side’’, Qan­tas staff add a slice of lemon or drop of ap­ple juice to help the body ab­sorb the nour­ish­ment rather than sim­ply pass­ing through the sys­tem. Crew sip green tea in­stead of cof­fee when seek­ing a boost, and pack low-salt snacks to eat in­stead of air­line food. Jet­star flight at­ten­dant Larissa Shep­pard says that af­ter 12 years of fly­ing she knows to “al­ways start with a big bot­tle and take small sips dur­ing the flight’’. “It’s a bit of a myth you shouldn’t drink cof­fee or tea, as long as you don’t have too much, and cos­met­i­cally the crew loves face mist as well as lip balm or lip gloss and lots of mois­turiser,’’ she says.

While pas­sen­gers, es­pe­cially those fly­ing econ­omy, are en­cour­aged to take a per­sonal wa­ter bot­tle to be filled af­ter clear­ing se­cu­rity, re­mem­ber that bag check is com­pleted at the gate in air­ports like Sin­ga­pore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok so when in doubt leave it empty un­til on board.


Sa­man­tha Lip­pi­att, co-founder of Health and Fit­ness Travel, says while savvy fly­ers know to skip the booze and avoid salty foods there are ways to re­vive af­ter touch­down. “Drink lots of wa­ter to help your body ex­pel waste and re­duce bloat­ing and, if you’ve landed in a trop­i­cal des­ti­na­tion, or­der a fresh co­conut which is not only tasty but con­tains a large dose of nu­tri­ents,’’ Sa­man­tha says. “Eat wa­ter-rich foods such as cel­ery, let­tuce, spinach, cu­cum­ber, cap­sicum, tomato and in-sea­son fruits be­cause, with salts and nat­u­ral sug­ars, the wa­ter within is eas­ily drawn across the di­ges­tive mem­brane into the blood­stream to nour­ish the body. Even though you might feel tired and groggy, skip tea and cof­fee, and if you can’t ab­stain from al­co­hol, stick to clear liq­uids like vodka and gin mix­ing with soda, and al­ter­nate with wa­ter.’’

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