During take off and when the aircraft is climbing, a reduction in cabin air pressure causes gases to expand. Trapped gases can expand more than 25% compared to sea level. When the aircraft descends, the volume of gas decreases. Trapped air in areas of the body such as the sinuses, ear and bowel can cause discomfort.
To lessen the effects of this pressure change on your body, avoid carbonated beverages and gas-producing foods like beans and cabbage, and avoid sleeping during the last hour or so of your flight so that you can yawn, swallow, or 'pop your ears' to equalise the pressure as the aircraft descends.
The risk of problems with ears and sinuses greatly increases if you are congested or ‘blocked up’ due to a cold. You should consider delaying your flight if you are sick or discussing with your healthcare provider as decongestant medication may also help.
Eating and drinking
Digestion slows down when the body is inactive, so eating lightly will make for a more comfortable flight. It is also best to avoid excessive alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea, as these drinks act as diuretics which increases the need to visit the toilet. Instead, drink juices and water frequently to maintain proper hydration.
To stay refreshed during and after a long flight, try performing these in-seat exercises—which can also be found in your inflight magazine—every few hours:
- Feet circling: circle your feet at the ankles, 20 times each foot.
- Bottom lifts: lift one buttock off the seat, tightening the muscles on that side. Hold to the count of 5. Repeat each side 5 times.
- Knee presses: press the knees and thighs together and tighten buttock muscles. Hold to the count of 5. Repeat 5 times.
- Back presses: press the small of your back into the seat, letting your shoulders come forward. Alternate with pressing your shoulders into the seat. Repeat 5 times.
- Shoulder circles: with arms at sides, circle shoulders forwards 10 times and then backwards 10 times.
- Head circles: slowly circle your head in one direction and then the other. Repeat 10 times.
- Foot presses: lift heels and press toes into the floor, then lift your toes and press heels into the floor. Do this 10 times for each foot.
Motion sickness is caused when a body’s sense of balance doesn’t match what is being seen, and may worsen during air turbulence. If you are prone to motion sickness, we recommend that you:
- Request a window seat over the wings
- Avoid alcohol before and during the flight
- Avoid dehydration by making sure you drink enough water before and during the flight
- Eat small, non-spicy meals
- Wear loose fitting comfortable, cool clothing
- Keep your eyes fixed on the ground, sea or horizon if the weather is clear
- Concentrating on an activity and keeping your brain active (but avoid reading if this tends to make your symptoms worse)
- Locate the air sickness bag when you take your seat and keep it close at hand
- Discuss the use of appropriate medications with your doctor. There are also many over-the-counter preparations that can be used.
Cabin air quality
Our modern aircraft are quiet and comfortable, with excellent levels of ventilation. The rate of air change in the aircraft cabin has been shown to be better than office buildings and trains and is comparable to that seen in hospital operating theatres.
In addition, all Emirates flights are non-smoking, so the level of airborne pollutants is far lower than on most city streets or buildings. Fresh air is constantly added to recycled air through very fine filters (HEPA) to remove 99.997% of all dust, viruses, fungi and bacteria.
However, the air in the cabin has low humidity levels, which can cause mild drying of the skin, nose, throat, and eyes. To minimise the drying effects, you should:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks
- Remove contact lenses and wear glasses instead during your flight
- Use a moisturiser to hydrate your skin.
Medical Assistance inflight
Emirates cabin crew are trained in first aid in case of onboard medical emergencies.
Our aircraft are equipped with comprehensive medical kits and defibrillators for use by the cabin crew.
Some flights have the latest telemetry equipment so that ground based medical staff can assess the patients whilst they are still in the air. Please note that passengers are responsible for the cost of any medical care they may require on the ground. Therefore, comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in the lower leg. It is not dangerous unless the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. Immobility is the biggest risk factor for DVT and it can occur after car, bus, rail, or air travel or even after sitting in a cinema.
In fact an international report by the World Health Organisation (the WRIGHT report) showed that there is no increased risk for healthy travellers from flying compared to immobility of the same duration from other forms of transport. Follow this general advice for inflight comfort and reduce the risk of developing DVT:
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing.
- Place your luggage in the overhead bins rather than under the seat in front of you. This will allow you to stretch and periodically exercise your feet and ankles.
- As immobility is a major risk factor in DVT formation, it is advisable to do the recommended in-seat exercises regularly and, if safe to do so, to walk around in the cabin every 2-3 hours.
- Keep well hydrated with regular intake of juices or water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Some people are more likely than others to develop DVT. Known risk factors associated with DVT are as follows:
- Age greater than 40
- Recent major surgery or injury, particularly affecting the lower limbs or abdomen
- Recent immobilisation for a day or more
- Previous personal or family history of DVT
- Blood-clotting disorders
- Certain forms of heart disease
- Previous history or current history of malignant disease
- Hormonal treatment including the oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy
- Varicose veins.
If you have any of these risk factors, you should seek advice from your doctor before travelling and discuss the following possible medical precautions:
- Use of anti-embolic stockings or flight socks
- Anti-coagulant medication or other prophylactic measures before flight.