Five Tips For Surviving a Long Haul Flight With Haemochromatosis

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Tomorrow we set off on an overseas holiday, which when you live in Australia invariably means a long haul flight or two.  Aching legs, swollen feet, poor quality sleep and limited food choices are just a few of the many challenges faced on a long haul flight.  Whilst jet setting around the world is not an everyday occurrence, over the years I have learnt a thing or two about preparing for, and surviving, the long trek from one hemisphere to another.  Further, for those of us with haemochromatosis, there are a few simple things we can do to protect our health so we arrive at our destination bright eyed and ready to explore!

Here are my top 5 tips for surviving a long haul flight in good health:

  1. Stay hydrated – low humidity and recycled air is incredibly dehydrating, so it’s important to keep up a steady intake of water and herbal teas. We all know that water is essential for almost all bodily functions – transportation of nutrients, digestion, temperature regulation, strengthening of our immune system and flushing of toxins. Adults need around 2 litres of water every day, hence relying on the small cups of water delivered with your in-flight meals will never be sufficient. Instead, take the upper hand and order multiple cups of water with your meals and don’t be afraid to buzz the flight attendant for a refill at any time. Peppermint and chamomile teas have the additional benefit of inhibiting iron absorption, so enjoy these freely too. It’s also important to keep your skin hydrated by removing makeup after takeoff and applying a clear hydrating mask and regularly applying moisturiser, hand cream and lip balm. I also love a good hydrating mist with essential oils for regular pick me ups throughout the flight, as well as for keeping the air around me smelling sweet and fresh. A light mist of peppermint or rose water does wonders to lift your spirits when you are only 4 hours into a 12 hour flight!
  2. Opt for Light Meals – just because you are not in your own kitchen does not mean you should give in to bad habits. Carbohydrate heavy and sauce laden meals can leave you more likely to suffer from indigestion, bloating and further contribute to poor quality sleep. Where possible, choose meals which are higher in protein and vegetables and enjoy fresh fruits (non ascorbic acid varieties) liberally for their hydrating qualities.
  3. Keep Active –whilst I’m not suggesting a full yoga session in the aisle, which could be mildly inappropriate, it is important to walk around and stretch as much as possible during the flight, particularly to relieve aching legs and joints. Try walking around the cabin at least every hour you are awake and do a few standing calf raises and ankle twists next to your seat or whilst waiting in line for the bathroom.
  4. In-flight Shut Eye – Sleeping on a plane is not easy when you combine the lack of leg room, dry recycled air, snoring neighbours, crying children and that inevitable flyer who can’t get out of their seat without pulling on the back of yours! However, even with the odds stacked against you, it is possible to get a few hours of quality sleep to combat fatigue and the effects of jetlag:
    • These days it’s easy to see the layout of the plane and to pick your seat way ahead of the flight. If you can, choose a window seat, which will provide you with a little extra support, whilst also allowing you to stay out of the way of the food trolley and people walking up and down the aisle (not to mention other people climbing over the top of you). Check out for seat advice, comfort ratings and user comments on most of the world’s airlines.
    • Wear comfortable and breathable clothing and preferably choose layers that can be peeled off easily throughout the flights. My go to outfit is a pair of J Brand jeggings, Seed merino wool long sleeved top, Country Road cotton tank top, a silk scarf large enough to wrap around my shoulders and ballet flats that I can easily slip on and off, even after my feet have inevitably swollen during the flight.
    • Bring your own warm socks – I feel the cold at the best of times (another side effect of haemochromatosis) and thick, wool socks keep my feet snug when the air conditioner is blasting. I have been known to slip off my shoes and pull on my socks as soon as I get on the plane – but never, ever wear only your socks to the bathroom!
  5. Manage Jet Lag – The fatigue associated with haemochromatosis is inevitable exacerbated by jet lag. Soaring across multiple time zones creates havoc on our circadian rhythms and disrupts our normal sleep patterns. However it is possible to “trick” your body into adjusting to the different time zones:
    • Set your watch to the time zone of your destination when you get on the plane.
    • Tomorrow we have a midnight flight and are flying west. You might wonder why this is important – well, flying east to west actually allows your body to adjust more easily to  new time zones. Whilst we will sleep for the first leg of our journey, we will stay awake for the final sector as it will be evening when we arrive at our destination. Having kept to the local time zone, we will happily fall into bed in our hotel room exhausted, but already having adapted to the local routine.
    • Having awoken refreshed from a full night’s sleep, ensure you take the time to go for a walk. Not only will this replenish your lungs with fresh air after the recycled air torture that is a long haul flight and hotel accommodation, but the daylight will also further help to adjust your body clock.

So there you have it – my tried and tested tips for surviving a long haul flight.

What are your tips? I’d love to hear them!

2 responses to “Five Tips For Surviving a Long Haul Flight With Haemochromatosis”

  1. Bec says:

    Take an empty bottle with you, (they won’t let you through with a full one) once in the boarding lounge you can fill it up, also all long haul flights have a water dispenser – with miniature cups – but you can refill your bottle whenever you want.
    I was interested in your post as I have two cousins with haemachromatosis, one quite severely, has to have a bleed and replace regularly. He never let it stop him travelling, took a doctors letter and all his med. details along, the hospital put it on a power stick for him. When he came here from UK he needed treatment and everything went smoothly.
    Hope you have a good trip

  2. Jude says:

    These are great tips for all travellers! It’s amazing how many people use their health condition as a reason not to travel. Anyone can travel if a little forward planning is put into place!