Spending endless hours on a plane, train or even a car is physically and mentally exhausting. Aside from the obvious things, like the lack of healthy food choices, the sedentary nature of travel, disrupted sleep and jet lag can make for a potentially deadly mix.
Then there are the not-so-obvious hazards that we generally ignore, but shouldn't. For example, we can assume that all planes, trains and buses are essentially cesspools of germs. Traveling petri dishes, if you will. Heaven only knows who sat in the seat before you, and never ask for those germ-infested pillows or blankets. I would even avoid the bathroom, if at all possible.
I say, always arm yourself with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes whenever you travel. Sanitize your seat with those handy wipes and use a paper towel to open and close the bathroom doors.
As for my friend, the eight hours of nonstop flying was almost deadly. In her case, the inactivity, dehydration and decreased circulation created the perfect storm for a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
While it may sound innocuous, DVT is a potentially deadly condition that can manifest during long trips of more than five hours by either car, train or plane. Being immobile for long periods of time can create the right conditions for DVT, which is essentially the formation of a blood clot within a vein (generally in the thigh or calf). Depending on the location, a blood clot could break off and result in a stroke or deadly pulmonary embolism. You see, DVT is nothing to play with.
As one would expect, our bodies are not designed for sitting for long periods of time, so it is essential that you exercise the legs and walk around every hour during long trips. But, if you develop swelling or pain in the leg, or breathing problems after traveling, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Obviously, if we can, we want to prevent developing a DVT episode. Therefore, exercising the legs while sitting by flexing and pointing the toes, rotating the ankles, and wiggling the toes will help prevent blood from pooling in your feet. Being physically fit and maintaining proper hydration (with water) will also help ward off this potential threat.
Once again, it pays to be fit.