Photo: shutterstockReading Time: 4 minutes
Each industry has its own health risks that we need to be aware of. However, we all can take the necessary precautions in order to minimize or to avoid those risks. In the aviation industry, pilots face a number of physical problems. Good news is that most of pilots’ health problems can be reduced with some preparation and preliminary understanding.
Knowing what your body does when faced with different issues means you can identify when a particular condition is happening and take essential steps to reduce or remove it. We are here to help you understand the major pilot health problems and give some tips for prevention.
Prevent Yourself from DVT by Walking the Aisle
As you may probably know, a pilot spends a lot of time sitting during his/her flight and this may cause a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a process during which one or multiple blood clots (thrombi) form in the deep veins of the legs.
Fortunately, there exists a solution to prevent yourself from DVT risk: you should simply get up and periodically walk the aisle every two or three hours. Additionally, the Aerospace Medical Association recommends exercising legs by flexing and extending ankles while you are sitting.
On a road trip, pull over, get out, and stretch your legs. If you fly a small airplane, it can be more problematic. But in nearly every case, if you have a long flight, you should be able to move around at least a little bit.
The further question is “How to notice the first symptoms of DVT?” And the answer is quite common – get annual check-ups at your doctor’s, especially, if you have a history of blood clots in your family. Moreover, if you swell more than usual, feel the pain in the chest or have noticed an unusual redness in your leg, foot, ankle, arm or neck, see your doctor immediately, as it could be the first signs of DVT.
Proper Hydration as a Routine
We all know that proper hydration is essential to good health. By keeping in mind that almost 70 percent of our body weight is water-based, we can only imagine how many functions of our body require water. In fact, water is vital for our blood, digestion system, also for our sweat and tears. If we there is a shortage of water, we might feel joint or muscle pain, migraine and tiredness. Moreover, it’s even possible to become paranoid or anxious if you don’t consume enough water.
While flying, dehydration can mostly occur as a result of high altitude. For this reason, individually adapted water consumption must become a routine for every pilot. According to Dr. P. Dara, a member of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), a pilot’s daily goal for optimal health is to consume at least five glasses (240 ml) of water before, during and after a flight.
As water is also vital for maintaining PH balance, good hydration leads to pH normalization. Furthermore, your energy and memory levels could be increased, blood sugar balanced and you will sleep better if constant water drinking becomes your routine. The same rules apply not only to pilots but also to the whole flight crew and passengers.
Think About Easily Accessible Warmer Clothes
Another situation a pilot may face during his/her flight is hypothermia when the body temperature drops below its normal range and it becomes too cold to function normally. It’s very important to note that hypothermia could mostly happen during an emergency situation. However, every pilot should still be prepared and use his/her knowledge to help other people out.
The first sign of hypothermia is when a person starts shaking because his/her muscles try to generate additional heat.
Other visible signs of hypothermia are increased breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. In order to be prepared, you should think about the clothes which have to be easily accessible during a flight. For example, if the flight takes the aircraft over a forest be sure there is a jersey or other warm clothing easily accessible. Choose wool and synthetic fibres and avoid cotton and denim because they become wet very quickly and make a person very cold.
Prepare Yourself While not on Duty
A career of a pilot is often considered to be prestigious and exciting. However, most youngsters are misled by a way too idealistic image in their minds disregarding the hard psychological conditions of the occupation.
Great responsibility for the safety of many passengers, operating an aircraft overnight, flying in bad weather or in a high density traffic area, temporarily getting off the course, equipment malfunction, conflicts with other crew members or air traffic control – these are amongst the most common reasons why pilots have to cope with exceptionally high stress levels in their workplace.
Other typical stress sources for a pilot are fatigue, long working hours and a regular jetlag.
Although there are a lot of techniques helping to deactivate stress, specialists claim that the most effective ways for individuals can be mastered only by themselves. In addition to special stress-control training sessions, conducted by a flying school, most aviation professionals advise to have a balanced life by doing regular exercise and having a healthy diet.
However, there are several challenges in remaining fit, well-rested, and healthy while travelling. Firstly, there is a limited opportunity to stand up and stretch during a flight. Health Fitness Revolution says that the only option is to use resistance bands for stretching.
Secondly, it is quite hard to keep to a special diet while flying, because fresh food requires refrigeration. The option there is to eat what is available and get back to your healthy eating habits when you are not flying.
Thirdly, pilots face an increased fatigue level due to long duty days and different time zones. You have to determine individually when you can rest efficiently, plan your activities in advance and sleep enough when you are not on your duty.