The 5 Hidden Health Dangers of Frequent Air Travel

The world of travel is exciting, adventuresome, and appears like a glamorous lifestyle to most of us. The business travelers who fly cross-country multiple times a month, pilots and flight attendants who get paid to explore foreign countries, and digital nomads who dance work/travel/play. But do you know about the hidden health dangers of frequent travel?

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This jet-setting lifestyle seduces many of us to believe that this is the ultimate way to live. It can leave us questioning our lives on the ground. However, this frequent flyer lifestyle comes to many overlooked hidden health dangers.

5 Hidden Health Dangers of Frequent Air Travel


PHOTO: Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

Chronic Jet-Lag

Traveling across time zones, multiple times a month compounds over the years and can lead to persistent jet lag. This can cause fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and can also influence genes linked to aging and the immune system. Chronic jet lag disrupts hormones which increase the risk of certain hormonal related cancers.

In a study by Baylor College of Medicine, frequent fliers have the same cancer risk as obese people. The study states that jet lag drastically raises one’s risk of liver cancer by driving up bile acid levels in the liver, creating buildup akin to that seen in organs of clinically overweight people.


Radiation-Effects Travel

Exposure to Cosmic Radiation

Frequent flyers are exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation which people who travel only a few times a year never have to think twice about. Flight crew are considered radiation workers and are exposed to more radiation than nuclear power plant workers.

Cosmic Radiation causes damage to tissues and DNA and has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Exposure to cosmic radiation increases with longer flight duration, higher altitudes, and proximity to the poles.

An Isolating and Lonely Lifestyle

Most of the hidden health dangers of frequent flyers are physiological. But what about the psychological health effects? In an article titled “A darker side of hypermobility,” the author writes that “due to the absence from family and friends, traveling frequently is an isolating and lonely experience.”

Severe Dehydration

About 50-65% of our bodies are made up of water. Water is so crucial for our overall health, and while on an aircraft it becomes challenging to stay well-hydrated. The cabin air is drier than the Sahara desert and zaps water from our bodies way faster than we can replace it – leaving us to feel like crap when we land.

Mix the dry cabin air with the go-to drinks of choice – coffee and alcohol – and you have a dehydration disaster. Experts recommend to forgo those beverages in the air and drink a pint of water every 3 hours in the air.

Circulation Problems and Deep Vein Thrombosis

While traveling, blood can pool in your legs and circulation can slow down if you’re sitting for too long. Narrow seats, limited legroom and a lack of mobility are problematic for both pilots and passengers. Flight attendants can sometimes be on their feet for hours at a time during a busy flight, which can also be a hidden health danger.

So what are the consequences of poor circulation?  Well, blood circulation is essential for your overall health, spreading oxygen and nutrients throughout your entire body. When the flow is impaired, blood pools in your leg veins, contributing to foot swelling by forcing fluids out of the blood and into the surrounding tissue.

More severe problems like varicose veins or blood clots like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can also result.

There is no doubt that traveling and flying provide wonderful, exciting opportunities to connect with the world. But, it’s important to be aware of the hidden health dangers you’ll encounter with this lifestyle. Make sure you feel good, stay healthy, and thrive despite living a jet-set life!

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UPDATED April 8, 2019

Kaeli Bauman

Kaeli is a Travel Wellness Expert, Holistic Nutritionist, Former Flight Attendant and Founder of Flight Fūd, a travel wellness brand to upgrade the health of frequent flyers.

  1. i was a Flight attendant for 18 years for a European Airline. It was one of the most exhausting and unhealthy jobs ever ,:.your digestive system is constantly under attack .your immune system , your luck of pure oxygen, you breathing of artificial air for hours,,the exposure to radiation ,your lack of sleep, back problems during different time zones internationally your body eventually wears out and i had ,ulcers, cold, allergies , digestive problems and lung problems….

  2. De Mor – I feel sorry for you. Now that you seem to have come out of the flight attendant job, you must do your best to take care of your health and try to revert the damage caused to your health. Healthy diet, adequate sleep, exercise and importantly regular health checkups to catch early any radiation triggered disorder

  3. This is scary
    For the past two years I’ve been taking a flight almost every 2 weeks , sometimes every week. Although they were only very short flights , I still felt horrible after each flight , filled with anxiety and definitely dehydrated. I flew so much I got to know all the different cabin crew haha, glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

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