Jet Lag and Airplane Earaches

Jet Lag

Jet lag is the phrase used to encompass the discomforts experienced as a result of traveling through several time zones. One study of long-distance travelers found that when the number of time zones crossed was equal, those traveling from West to East were less likely to suffer severe jet lag.

Usually jet lag symptoms tend to be simply annoying and disruptive. They may detract from the pleasure of vacations, and they may interfere with performance on business trips.

In a recent major study of long-distance travel these symptoms of jet lag were reported:

  • Daytime sleepiness—lasts 2-7 days after a trip, and sometimes longer. (Sleep disturbances are the most common problems caused by jet lag and last longer than other jet lag problems.)
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration
  • Indigestion
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Hunger at odd hours
  • Irritability—moods clearly affected
  • Depression—30% reported some degree of depression
  • Other disturbances reported: headache, sore muscles, swollen feet and feeling “out of touch”

Tips for Coping with Jet Lag

  • Allow ample time to sleep and rest on arrival at your destination. If possible, delay important work or activities until you’ve had a couple days to adjust.
  • Adopt local times and routines immediately upon arrival. However, for a stay of only one or two days, consider maintaining your home schedule, if possible.
  • Walk outdoors the first few days after arrival to be exposed to morning and afternoon sunlight. This may help reset your biological clock.
  • Flying from West to East—expose yourself to bright morning light. It helps prepare you to accept an earlier bedtime.
  • Flying from East to West—expose yourself to bright afternoon light. It appears to delay bodily rhythms so that the need to sleep comes later.
  • Consult your physician about using a short-acting sleep medication for one to three nights upon arrival. Such medications should not be used on the plane or in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, which may induce drowsiness.
  • Try to pre-adapt before departure by gradually shifting meal and sleep times to fit the new time zone.
  • Before flights, avoid overeating and drinking alcohol.
  • If possible, plan to break up very long flights with one-day layovers at locations enroute to your destination.
  • Drink water and juices on the plane to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, and alcohol consumption—especially on lengthy eastward journeys.

Airplane Earaches

If upper respiratory infection symptoms are present before travel, be sure to use a decongestant. In addition, Neosynphrine Nasal Spray (1/4 or ½ %) may be used before flight or according to the directions on the label. Do not use for longer than 3 days consecutively. Other methods of keeping ears open and pain free during flight include chewing gum, swallowing frequently, blowing the nose, and yawning.