May 27, 2014 5:46 pm

How to avoid jet lag and other medical conditions while flying

TORONTO – Is there a doctor on board? Chances are you won’t hear that while flying but one study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that one in every 600 flights will involve a medical emergency.

Dizziness or fainting were the most common midair medical problems followed by respiratory problems, nausea and chest pains.

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Dr. Samir Gupta has been called into action on two flights: once to deal with an asthma and the other when someone was having chest pains.

“You don’t have all your equipment with you, but you rely on your instinct and physical exam and in both cases it turned out fine,” he said.

Gupta offered five tips to avoiding a medical emergency while 30,000 feet above the ground.

1. If you have respiratory problems, check with your doctor before flying.

“Make sure its safe for you to fly before you fly,” he said. “Particularly things that are going to affect your oxygen levels, so severe conditions.”

2. Avoid ear pain

“So to help avoid that think about anti-histamines, decongestants, either sprays or orally before getting on a plane,” Gupta said.

3. Bring your medication

“If you’ve got a chronic condition and you have medications, make sure you bring them in your carry on,” he said. “Have it available to you on the plane.”

4. Avoid deep vein thrombosis

“You’re sitting for prolonged periods, particularly on trans-Atlantic flights, the blood is pooling in your legs and theres a chance of forming clots there,” he said. “About every 30 minutes get up and walk around. If not, even at your seat, do some exercises, keep the blood flowing.”

Bonus – can you avoid jet lag?

Not yet – but researchers are working on it.

“I don’t know if you can avoid it completely but more and more we’re learning how to fool the body’s circadian rhythym,” Gupta said.

The body’s circadian rhythym regulates your sleeping patterns. So how do you fool it to avoid jet lag? It involves managing the hours you are awake and gradually making them similar to the country to which you are flying.

And there’s an app to help you called “jet lag rooster.” The app will help you gradually change your sleeping patterns in the days leading up to your flight.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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