Dehydrated? It’s no skin off your nose…

Summer woes aside, long haul flights too are inherently dehydrating, demanding you to be armed with the quintessential H2O

The sky, when likened to a desert, behaves as one, with just 10 to 20 percent humidity level making it drier than, say, the Sahara desert. While this alone can lead to dehydration, it is the combined effect of low humidity level and oxygen-thin air in the cabin that leads to loss of water from your body. And, if you are on a long haul flight, that water loss could be as high as 2 liters. Studies have found that a 10-hour flight could rob men off 2 liters of water, and women 1.6 liters.

Can your body sustain this loss…?

Yes, of course!

Is there something that you could do to keep your body hydrated?

Yes: drink! Water, that is.

Drink enough and more of water – before, during and after a flight – to keep your body buoyant. The idea is to retain that water so as to avoid feeling fatigued, irritable and nauseated, with a headache as large as a mountain to boot.

How much water your body would need depends on the length of your flight time. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 1 cup or about 8 ounces of water for every hour that you are in the flight. This applies, specifically, to flights that are longer than three to four hours, as your chances of getting dehydrated on shorter flights are less, more so if you have been drinking enough water.

So, if you are on a long flight, sitting there on your curved seat, feeling comfy under an airline blanket, with the little television screen in the front screening some recorded show, follow certain cues and hints to ensure that that the unrelenting dehydration does not get your goat.

First off, remember that dehydration in the flight is brought on by the climate-controlled environment in the cabin, which reduces the humidity to under 15 percent; much lower than the average 40 to 70 percent (higher during summer in this part of the world) in the world below. This leads the moisture molecules in the eyes, nose and throat to get drawn to the dry air in the cabin, leading to loss of moisture.

Long haul flights also cause what is called ‘insensible water loss’, which occurs due to the environment within, leading to increased rate of breathing. This could have an impact on your health and also your mood. As experts note, dehydration can affect attention, memory and even cognition and critical thinking abilities. Besides, when the mucosal membranes become dehydrated, their efficiency to block bacteria or virus becomes less, making it easy for you to catch an illness and become sick. This puts the onus on you, as a passenger, to brace up for the flight with water – your quintessential dehydration guard.

Drink small amounts (minimum of 250 ml an hour), frequently, to give your body the boost it requires. Some doctors also advice taking hydration supplements to get the essential electrolytes and energy and overcome the low humidity levels. You could give supplements a try if you have previously experienced the after effects of dehydration, including dryness of skin, nasal irritation and eye problems during long flights.

But how do you guzzle all that water? Won’t your stomach protest?

Whether the stomach protests or your throat resists, gulping a liter-bottle of water in one go will not solve the dehydration problem. Such drinking will only make you rush to the toilet before your body utilizes it to hydrate you. However, rushing to the toilet (without disturbing co-passengers) has its benefits: it will help prevent another common air travel problem called deep vein thrombosis.

There is more you could do to stay on top of the dehydration situation. Here is a quick guideline that you could adapt according to your preferences and medical conditions.

Say no to diuretic drinks and salty snacks and foods like pickles and sauces, as they can make you thirsty. It is best to shift to fruit juices and consume tea and coffee in moderation. If you can control your appetite and are not fastidious about your food and drink, opt to have only water during the flight, while you munch on salads or yogurt.

Moisturize your skin during the flight to ensure that your face (and hands) does not suffer from the signs of dehydration – dry and creased. As per the airline regulations, you can carry small (100ml) containers of liquids, gels and lotions fitted into a clear zip lock bag. Add a moisturizer to it and apply it during the course of the flight to keep your skin hydrated and glowing. You could also use a face mist spray to give your face a fresh feel.

Keep eye drops handy if you, generally, suffer from dry eyes or tend to experience dryness during a flight, owing to dehydration. Since rubbing the eyes will only worsen the condition, your eyes could do with a boost of eye drops, which, again, you could carry in the little zip lock bag. Contact lens users might need to check it out with their doctor.

Have a hydrating flight!