Being in good health when you fly will give you the best chance of enjoying (!) your flight, or at least making at stress free as possible. It seems to me, however, that “fitness to fly” is often a topic placed too far down the list of travel priorities.
Here’s an example:… DO NOT fly if you have a gooey head cold! I really mean this… while you may be able to guts through a day at work while blowing your nose and generally juicing up the place, you DO NOT want to be on an airliner in this situation. This has nothing to do with the fact that your proximity to your neighbours may make your contagion unpleasant for all. Rather, it is about your own pain and discomfort.
Not to get too technical about it, your ears and sinuses are like air filled balloons. When you go up and down in a plane there are air pressure changes because the cabin, while pressurised, is not maintained at sea-level airpressure. In fact, when your airplane is at cruise altitude the cabin may have the same air pressure as if you were standing on an 8000 foot (2500 metre) mountain.
When you go up in an elevator or an airplane the air inside your ears expands as the outside air pressure decreases. The body, normally, has methods for equalising this pressure… your ears “pop” as the pressure in your ears escapes through your Eustachian tubes (small tubes that connect your ears to your gob).
However, if you are gummed up with a head cold that “popping” may be difficult or impossible. That can result in a considerable amount of discomfort as the airplane climbs and descends, even resulting in ear drum damage.
This issue is particularly important when travelling with kids. Everyone is looking forward to the family holiday, bookings have been made. If you’ve gone with a cheap fare substantial penalties will be applied if you try to defer or cancel your flight. Then one of your family gets sick…
Do you still fly? Sometimes conflicting pressures (money, expectations, etc.) can influence our decision to fly…
The trouble is the pain and potential for ear damage is NOT WORTH IT! Nor is the fact that you, or your kids, will forever more associate flying with pain, thereby making any subsequent journey a difficult sell.
Dealing with anxiety about flight is easier if your “batteries” are charged. If you are experiencing pain in your ears and sinuses during the flight your reserves for dealing with other issues, like Fear of Flying, will be reduced.
The airline you have chosen may not care a whole lot if you fly unwell, or they may keep your money if you cancel (worth thinking about when you buy your ticket). The only person you can really trust to make a realistic assessment about your fitness to fly is YOU!
Do yourself a favour… if you have a gooey head cold wait until you are better before you brave the skies. In this case it just ain’t worth it to soldier on!
Tags: ear pain when flying, ears, eustachian tubes, fitness to fly