Monday, January 23, 2017

Is jet lag an acute mountain sickness?

Previously, I wrote about my flight experience. I like to ride on an airplane. But in recent years, I have been suffering from jet lag.

Most people feel discomfort immediately after leaving the plane in spite of being relieved from the annoying cabin. Indeed, there are several factors to damage your body in an aircraft: the narrow seat, difficulty to move, high density of passengers in the cabin, dehydration,  lowered oxygen concentration, and of course, jet lag. In the latest study, however, another factor was featured for investigation. It is altitude itself of the flying airplane.

In an ordinary aircraft, cabin pressure is maintained at approximately 565mmHg, equivalent to an altitude of 8000 feet when it is flying at the highest level. In this environment, you can get acute mountain sickness. Your discomfort after landing is mainly attributed to this mechanism, rather than the jet lag, according to the researchers.

In this study, the participants were encouraged to enter a hypobaric chamber instead of boarding an airplane. The pressure was gradually reduced to 565mmHg. The participants were examined after an eight-hour trial. The results suggested that this experimental environment duplicated the symptoms of those after a long flight.

The New England Journal of Medicine: Effect of Aircraft-Cabin Altitude on Passenger Discomfort

Therefore, if the low-pressure issue is properly treated, your flight will become happier. The researchers concluded that maintaining a cabin altitude of 6000 ft or lower will minimize the adverse influence on the body of passengers. Following the finding, the media suggest that Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be a solution because they are designed to keep the pressure in the cabin stable.

Could 'widebody' passenger planes end jet lag? Researchers say low pressure cabins on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 could stop symptoms

In my experience, this new vehicle is very nice. I had been suffering from a sore throat every time after boarding, but it has disappeared since Boeing 787 became available. Nonetheless, jet lag has not completely gone. A high-tech plane is not a panacea.

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