15 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Fly

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1. Jet lag

Whether you travel all the time or once a year, you’re likely to experience the common and unpleasant sleep phenomenon of jet lag. Your internal clock becomes out of sync as a result of traveling in different time zones, which can affect your sleep and alertness. Daytime fatigue, insomnia, and mood changes are common symptoms.

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2. Hearing loss

Whether you’re in first class or economy, airplane ear will likely get to you; it does not discriminate. Remember the pressure inside your ears when a plane lands and takes off or when there is a sudden change in altitude? That’s airplane ear, or ear barotrauma. Muffled hearing and temporary mild hearing loss are common symptoms. Yawning, swallowing or chewing gum — a pacifier or a bottle of milk if you’re traveling with an infant — should take care of the problem.

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3. Cosmic radiation

Changes in elevation and atmospheric conditions can change how much cosmic radiation we are exposed to. In 2015, an investigation warned that a solar storm can trigger a shower of radiation that can affect people. The radiation, researchers say, is too weak to cause danger at ground level, but neutrons that don’t reach the ground do reach airline altitude. That’s why airplanes are diverted away from the North Pole during solar particle events — a lot more cosmic rays come down there.

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4. Taste buds change

Chances are you’ve had tomato juice on a plane — and only on a plane. United Airlines tried in 2018 to remove the drink from its menu but people revolted and the airline had to bring it back. There is a perfectly logical explanation as to why tomato juice (or a Bloody Mary) is the preferred drink of many travelers up in the air. The high decibel level in the plane plays with people’s taste buds. Also, taste receptors are less sensitive because of the low pressure in the cabin, causing less oxygen in the blood. Sweets are not felt as strongly, while savory tastes are heightened.


5. Skin becomes more sensitive

Blame it on the lack of air in a plane. The skin dehydrates as the air in the cabin is less humid. Some research has shown that flying can dry out the skin by as much as 37%. Dry skin is likely to be itchy. Oil gets trapped under the skin while it tries to secrete more to fight the dryness, possibly leading to pimples and breakouts. This is true for all types of skin. The so-called “airplane acne” usually disappears in a few days; it’s not a chronic condition.