A person can be sitting in their GP surgery shortly after arriving home with a tropical disease such as malaria, dengue fever or diarrhoea. These conditions in times gone by were incubated on board ocean going liners and never reached the shores of the United Kingdom. This problem, brought on by the speed of international travel, is often overlooked. Another problem, which faces the frequent business traveller, is the issue of adjusting to time changes and Jet Lag. Good pre-planning and thinking through the issues will help in dealing with differences in time.
When booking your flight, look at the travel times available and plan for a time to sleep. Get a good nights sleep the night prior to travel, ensure you are well organised and everything related to your trip is in order. If you need to be in meetings as soon as you arrive, try to fly during a time when you usually go to sleep. Choose a direct flight that cuts down on travelling time.
On Board the Flight
When you are flying try to avoid alcohol. As well as dehydrating your body, and increasing your risk of DVT, it can leave you feeling sluggish. Drink plenty of fruit juices or water. Still water is better than carbonated, as this will keep you from the inevitable bloated, gassy feeling associated with carbonated drinks. Avoid any stimulant such as caffeine until you have had a nights sleep at your destination
Try to exercise regularly on the flight, as this will help your circulation. Just a short walk around the cabin or moving your ankles around can help improve your circulation in a pressurised cabin. Using an exercise aid can be useful on a long flight
Do not change your watch during the flight, stick to your home time until you reach your destination. This is especially important if you are a Diabetic and need to continue a strict insulin regime during the flight. If your watch says it is 11pm and time for bed – close your eyes and sleep (even if it means missing the movie!). If you need to make connecting flights however, do check the local time regularly as you could end up missing a vital flight.
When you arrive
When planning your schedule try to allow for a few hours to rest when arriving at your destination to give yourself time to be at your best for meetings. A warm shower is a good way to get refreshed, but avoid hot baths as they can relax the body and you might find it hard to get going again!
On arriving at your destination change your watch to local time. Try to adjust immediately to local food and sleep patterns. Exposing yourself to bright light is believed to help your body return to normal cardiac rhythms. Some travellers have seen positive effects using melatonin, but you should discuss its suitability with your Doctor, others suggest the use of short acting sleeping tablets to help you sleep those first few days away.
There are many suggestions and discussion on this issue of jet lag and many proficient travellers will have an established routine and way of dealing with it. But despite any suggestions to the contrary, the body still needs to adjust and it is essential to rest after any flight.
Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional. Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.