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4 Weird Effects Air Travel Has on Your Body
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April 5, 2019
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Jessica Scott
Jessica A. Scott has been a novelist and freelance writer for over 10 years. She loves travel and divides her time between her original hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and Saronno, Italy.
europe

Flying can be a very liberating experience. It is incredible to think that it wasn't so long ago that air travel seemed impossible, but now people take flights every day. Planes can take you to places you never could have reached otherwise, and can help you have some of the greatest adventures of your life. Unfortunately, though, air travel isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Here are four weird effects that it can have on your body, and what to do about it.

It can make you more susceptible to colds

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If you have noticed that you are more likely to get a cold or the flu after taking a flight, you are not alone. More than one in five people come down with an illness after flying, and you can thank the close quarters and the recirculated air for that. A lot of people (some of whom come from other countries and carry other strains of cold or flu viruses that your body might not have defenses for yet) sit very close together, which is just asking for cross-contamination. The recycled air may not help either, and neither does the dryness of that air, which makes you produce less mucus to keep germs from entering your nose and throat. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often, wipe down your tray table before eating off of it, and remember not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless you know your hands are totally clean.

Your skin can act out

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In addition to the dryness of the air on a flight, and it is worth noting that it can do more than just dry up your mucus. The arid air on a plane can wreak havoc on your skin as well, draining all the moisture out of it and making you feel like a snake that needs to shed its dry, itchy skin. It could also have the opposite effect, though: some people find that their skin becomes more oily instead, as it struggles to compensate for the dryness of the air by kicking its own natural oil production into overdrive. The best way to avoid both of these problems is to moisturize your skin before, during, and after a flight, and to drink a lot of water.

It can make you gassy

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If you have ever been sure that your seatmate was letting out some silent but deadly gas on your long-haul flight (or felt the urge to do so yourself), you aren't crazy. The pressure changes that occur when a plane reaches a high altitude can affect, not just the bottles of shampoo in your carry-on, but the gases inside your body as well. This can lead to extreme discomfort and embarrassment, but the general consensus seems to be that you should let it out when you can. Peter Post of the Emily Post institute for etiquette recommends holding it until you can get to a bathroom or, if that's not possible, wait until there is some turbulence, and let it rip amongst the confusion.

It can cause a toothache

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This lesser-known side effect of air travel can be one of the most uncomfortable. Changes in air pressure can cause the pressure within your skull and sinus cavities to change. This can cause movement among your fillings, or even your teeth themselves, and can sometimes bring air into decaying teeth and trap it there, which can be very painful. This can lead to a miserable, almost unbearable flight, but the only thing you can really do to prevent it is to get your existing toothaches or other dental problems taken care of before you get on the flight, or try to take some Tylenol if it comes up in the air.