ME/CFS Survival Guide to Flying

For those of us who are lucky enough to be well enough to take a holiday, air travel can bring its own challenges. For some of us flying may be the only way to getaway to the sun during winter for some much needed vitamin D therapy. However I have found that I regularly pick up a viral infection during air travel and often my holiday or my return are blighted by a viral crash.
Travel in general can be exhausting. Being in an enclosed space with lots of people increases your exposure to airborne infections. This may be exacerbated by the way air is recirculated around the cabin of an aeroplane. The changes in air pressure during a flight add strain to your body making it hard to stay hydrated. They can also aggravate problems with orthostatic intolerance.

If, like me, you decide that the benefits of your travels are likely to outweigh the risks there are certain thing that you can do to minimise the impact.

  • Consider taking extra vitamin C, zinc, echinacea or other potentially immune boosting supplements to help ward off the extra risk of infection.
  • Give yourself plenty of time for the journey to the airport. Stress will only add more strain to your body. Also I generally find that the earlier that you get to check in, the shorter the queue. Once you have checked your bags you can usually find somewhere to sit down and rest.
  • Although checking in your bags usually means a queue, taking a 10kg mini-suitcase on as hand luggage can be even more of a strain. I always check in my luggage and try to keep my hand luggage to minimum, limiting it to things that I need for the journey and any battery operated goods which can’t go in the hold. It’s always wise to keep your medication in your hand luggage too just in case your luggage goes missing for a couple of days.
  • Recognise waiting time, as an opportunity for resting. If you get to the airport early and have to wait that just gives you a better opportunity to pace yourself. Sit down and rest after checking in your luggage, as you will probably have to queue again at security. Some airports allow you to pay to miss the security queue, check this out in advance. Then once through security rest again before boarding.
  • Many airports have a prayer room. These are ideal places to go for some quality rest. Spending a few minutes focused on silence, breathing and relaxation can be far more refreshing than sitting in the departures lounge with all the distraction of tannoy announcements and people watching!
  • Often the shops on the other side of security are still cheaper for drinks than the prices budget airlines charge on board. Stock up on still water or electrolyte drinks to keep you hydrated on the flight. (Sparkling drinks will expand in your stomach during a flight and can leave you uncomfortably bloated). Look out for vending machines which may be even cheaper.
  • Consider priority boarding or booking your seats in advance so that you don’t have to worry about the queue for boarding. I usually just sit down until the very end of the queue and not worry too much about where I sit.
  • Remember your support stockings if you suffer any form or orthostatic intolerance.
  • Some airports/airlines offer quite a good care package for disabled travellers; however some offer very little help. Check in advance what your airport/airline will do to help you if you need to be in a wheel chair. You might find that your airline will be very helpful, but will not be able to pull any strings with the queues for security. Always be prepared.
  • Consider wearing a mask during the flight to protect yourself from airborne infection.
  • Bach rescue remedy can help restore your body’s balance after the changes in air pressure, although staying well hydrated is probably the most important goal.
  • Make sure that you plan a restful day or two after a flight.

Hope these are helpful suggestions, I would love to hear from you if you have any more tips. Happy travels to you all!


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