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Frequent Flyer Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience

The One Thing That Makes Long-Haul Flights Terrible and How to Fix It

Ever gotten off a long flight feeling tired, head-achy, and with a sore throat? All those symptoms are due to the dehydrating effect of the air in the cabin, which according to the World Health Organization, has an average humidity of less than 20 percent. (For comparison, most homes have a humidity of over 30 percent).

The lack of humidity can cause headaches, sore throats, grogginess, dry eyes, and dry skin and the effects can last well after you deplane.

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How to Fight Plane Dehydration

To combat dehydration, you should aim to drink about eight ounces of water for every hour that you’re airborne. If you have trouble remembering to drink water, you can use a smart water bottle that will send you electronic reminders to take a sip or a glass water bottle with pre-marked measurements to help you keep track of how much you’re drinking.

You’ll need to bring the water bottle through security empty and fill it up in the terminal. You can also ask a flight attendant to fill it for you during the flight.

Prefer to sleep during the flight, or just don’t want to disturb your aisle row seatmate for access to the lavatory? Try adding Hydration tablets (which contain electrolytes) to your water to fight dehydration. Although, you should still try to get up and stretch a couple of times throughout the flight to prevent blood clots.

Travel-sized nasal spray, eyedrops, and lotions, can all help counter the physical effects of dehydration as well.

Avoid eating salty foods and drinking alcohol while onboard, both of which can intensify dehydration.

Most people don’t get to choose which type of aircraft they fly on, but if you notice that you’re on a Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, you may experience less dehydration than on other planes. According to The Points Guy, the air on these newer planes usually have around 25 percent humidity—a small but effective increase in moisture.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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