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Beware the perils at 35,000ft! How everything from eating to using the loo on a plane can put your health at risk
- Learn the cabin crew ABC of what to eat at altitude – ‘Anything But Chicken’
- Fizzy drinks fill your system with gas and chewing gum makes you inhale stale air
- Don’t ignore the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign and stay safely in your seat when it’s on
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week he finds out how to stay healthy on a holiday flight.
Squeeze hundreds of hot, stressed passengers into tiny seats in an aluminium tube for up to 12 hours. Make everyone breathe the same air and touch all the same surfaces. Serve lots of alcohol. Hit air pockets at 550mph. It’s little wonder that recorded in-flight illnesses and injuries are rising, but there are ways to stay healthy in the sky.
IT’S AS EASY AS ABC
The ABC of what to eat: A plate of airline food where the passenger has clearly ignored the cabin crew’s rudimentary advice, where ABC stands for ‘anything but chicken’
Cabin crew reheat dozens of meal trays in each tiny galley oven, so it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that many of the staff think some of the dishes on the bottom shelves don’t always get cooked through, or that some half-cooked foods are more dangerous than others.
Ask cabin crew what they eat on board and many give ‘ABC’ as their answer: ‘Anything But Chicken.’
HOT DRINKS ARE RISKY
Landing you in hot water: You will take your life in your hands chancing a hot drink at altitude as the tanks containing the water are rarely cleaned and the water is never properly boiled
Online forums for cabin crew are currently buzzing about the risks of potentially contaminated water. Crew allege that the tanks that hold an aircraft’s fresh water are rarely (if ever) cleaned, and that the water for tea or coffee is never properly boiled.
That is why lots of crew only drink bottled water (or canned drinks) on board the aircraft.
FORGET THE FIZZ
What a fizz swizz: Carbonated drinks, like the alcohol shown or otherwise, should be consumed in moderation as they put more gas into your system and will make you bloat
Sparkling water and fizzy drinks (including champagne, if you’re lucky enough to be offered any) can put extra gas into your system, so they aren’t a good idea if you’re worried about bloating.
And while chewing gum can stop your ears popping at take-off and landing, it can also make you swallow excess air, so it’s best avoided in the middle of a flight.
WIPE AWAY THE GERMS
Plane surfaces can be breeding grounds for bugs, so use anti-bacterial wipes to clean touchscreen TVs, handsets and tray tables (people really do change babies’ nappies on the tables and cleaners only have time to give them a quick wipe between flights). But the dirtiest spot of all? Experts say it’s the toilet flush button, closely followed by the toilet door lock. No wonder they recommend touching both only through a paper towel.
It’s tempting to have a few drinks on board, but you’ll need your wits about you if there’s a real emergency. That’s also why doctors rarely recommend (or take) sleeping pills on planes. If you’re still tempted to take any type of medication, then try it at home first. ‘You don’t want to be at 35,000ft when you discover you’re allergic to a new drug,’ says ‘flying doctor’ Ben MacFarlane, author of the Holiday SOS book about in-flight emergencies.
DON’T IGNORE THE SIGNS
Don’t ignore the ‘fasten seat belt’ signs and stay in your seat when they’re on
It’s not a good idea to go to the loo when the ‘Fasten seat belt’ sign comes on, especially if you are small. If the plane hits sudden, severe turbulence, you can be thrown up and hit the cabin ceiling – and the smaller and lighter you are, the higher and harder you will go. Worse still, if you are injured in a plane toilet and fall to the floor, you may block the inward-opening door, making it hard to reach you.
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How to stay healthy on a holiday flight