Barotrauma, or ear pain, affects those
flying, especially during ascent and
descent, as air in the middle ear and
sinuses will expand and contract.
London says to facilitate the free
flow of air and to prevent pain, it
is helpful to chew (something like
gum, for example), and to yawn. She
recommends offering a drink to young
children and a pacifier to infants.
During long flights (four hours or more),
London says blood flow in the legs is
reduced, blood becomes more viscous
(thicker), and a blood clot may form,
causing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
"DVT is related to multiple factors,"
says London, "such as duration of
flight, environmental factors in the
cabin, such as a dry cabin atmosphere,
and personal risk factors."
Although many episodes of DVT
are without symptoms, London says
some symptoms of the condition
may include the following: swelling
in the lower or whole leg; leg
becomes warm or discolored.
Clots in the leg can become
detached and travel via the
venous circulation to the lungs,
causing a pulmonary embolism
(PE). She says symptoms of a PE
include breathlessness, chest
pain with deep breathing, and
occasionally coughing up blood.
London offers the following advice to
prevent leg swelling during travel:
Wear comfortable, loose clothing
that is not tight at the waist or knees.
Get up and walk around the cabin
hourly; aisle seats are best for this.
Exercise calf and thigh
muscles by extending and
flexing ankles and knees.
Do not cross knees or ankles.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Drink alcohol and coffee
only in moderation.
If you have personal risk factors,
compression stockings are
recommended. (Some risk factors
include: obesity, age greater than
50, late pregnancy or the first 12
weeks postpartum, varicose veins,
recent surgery in the past four to
six weeks, limb immobilization
with casts, oral contraception or
hormone replacement therapy.)
“Altitude sickness occurs when
one ascends more rapidly than the
body can adjust to the reduced
atmospheric pressure and decreased
oxygen delivery to the body’s cells at
a higher altitude,” London explains.
She says symptoms of acute
mountain sickness include headache,
loss of appetite and fatigue, and can
progress to nausea, vomiting and
extreme lassitude (physical weariness).
drugs such as ibuprofen are effective
in treating headaches associated with
high altitude,” says London. “And they
may also prevent headaches when
taken a few hours prior to ascent.”
For some travel itineraries to
extremely high altitudes, consider the
medication Acetazolamide (Diamox),
which improves one’s acclimatization
and does not mask symptoms,
London adds. She says this needs a
prescription, and its use should be
discussed with your travel practitioner.
How to Acclimate to Altitude
Prevent altitude sickness
with London’s advice:
Ascend gradually; spending a
day in Denver can be helpful.
Avoid alcohol consumption and
stay hydrated with lots of water.
Participate in mild exercise
for the first 48 hours.
Do not ascend directly to altitudes
greater than 9,800 feet, if possible,
especially if coming from sea level.
The VVMC’s Traveler’s
Clinic, located in
Clinic in Avon, next
to Avon Urgent
Care, is a great
resource for those
planning to travel to
foreign countries. In
addition to supplying
staff members can
on diseases that
can be contracted
through food, water
and insects, as well
as advice on specific
health concerns and/
or risks associated
with certain countries.
The clinic is open
Friday, 8 a.m to
4:30 p.m. Visit
for more information.
COMMON TRAVEL AILMENTS
( AND WHERE SYMPTOMS APPEAR )