Tips for Traveling
A. Traveling by Air
- Pressure Changes: The sinuses and ears can be a problem with pressure changes inside the aircraft. Remember that you do not get in trouble when flying up in an airplane, since the heavy air in the sinuses and ears will spontaneously equalize with the elevated atmospheric change. The problem is in descent. If the aircraft is well pressurized, and the descent is slow, people seldom have problems. However, if the aircraft is not adequately pressurized, and the descent is swift, pressure changes can cause problems. To protect against pressure changes, we suggest patients purchase a decongestant nose spray (Afrin, Neo-Synephrine, Dristan, or others). Ask the flight attendant to tell you 15 or 20 minutes before the pilot starts his descent. Spray both sides of the nasal cavity, wait a few minutes, clear the nasal cavity of any mucus, and spray again until you feel the medication in the back of your throat. During descent, perform the Valsalva maneuver by closing the mouth and nose and blowing to keep the sinuses and middle ear cavities clear. If you do not have hypertension or any other cardiovascular disease, Sudafed taken before the flight starts will also help you clear the airway.
- Cabin Air Problems: The airlines still refuse to supply 100% fresh air to the cabin, except for the cockpit. This recycled air can contain chemicals from the engines as well as other people’s viruses and bacteria. The air is also dry. It is often helpful to use saline nasal sprays (Ayr, Ocean, saline) during the flight, and be sure to drink plenty of water before and during the flight. To help protect your airway from infection by viruses and bacteria, ingestion of SSKI can be helpful. This safe and inexpensive medication can be prescribed by your doctor. This liquid medication can be used by dropping 60 drops into an ordinary 500 ml (16.9 fl. Oz.) bottle of purified drinking water. Using tape markers, divide the bottle into 4 equal portions. Drink one-fourth of the bottle before each flight. This amount should be adequate for two people taking a round-trip flight. PIMA syrup may be substituted for SSKI, 2 teaspoons before each flight.
B. General Suggestions:
- Remember to take all of your medications.
- Take an emergency kit. If you are prone to infection, take antibiotics, as well as Nystatin and Acidophilus. If you have severe allergies, remember your Epi-Pen and antihistamines. Oral steroids, such as a Medrol Dose-Pack can also help protect you in case of an unexpected allergy emergency.
- If you are traveling abroad, remember to check the country of destination and find out if any other precautions or vaccinations are indicated for that country.
- If you have trouble sleeping on the aircraft, traveling West to East, Melatonin or a small dose of Xanax or Ambien may help you adjust your sleep cycle.
As the old philosopher said, “Train for the ill, not for the good.”