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11 Things Traveling on a Plane Does to Your Body

Reader's Digest Logo By Tina Donvito of Reader's Digest | Slide 1 of 11: More than <a href="http://airlines.org/news/airlines-for-america-forecasts-45-2-million-travelers-to-fly-during-21-day-winter-holiday-season/">45 million people</a> are expected to fly on U.S. carriers this holiday season, and if you're one of them, you might not be looking forward to the yucky feeling air travel often leaves you with. Besides the airport crowds and stress, traveling at such a high altitude has real effects on the body. Although the barometric pressure of the cabin is adjusted to prevent altitude sickness, you could still experience sleepiness or a headache. 'The lower oxygen pressure found in an aircraft cabin is equivalent to 6,000 to 8,000 feet of altitude, similar to that of Mexico City,' says Paulo M. Alves, MD, global medical director of aviation health for the medical and travel safety services company <a href="http://www.medaire.com">MedAire</a>. 'Oxygen partial pressure drops accordingly, creating a mild hypoxia [low oxygen], which can cause headache in some susceptible individuals.' One <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1365-2044.2005.04124.x/asset/j.1365-2044.2005.04124.x.pdf?v=1&amp;t=iwi13a20&amp;s=0cf4db3d006cf96f9f17410ed0b5ff9eb994b27b">study from the U.K.</a> showed passengers' oxygen levels dropped 4 percent, which could be a concern if you have heart or lung problems. To help <a href="http://www.rd.com/health/conditions/home-remedies-for-headaches/1">prevent headaches</a>, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Try these <a href="http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/drink-more-water/1">tricks to drink more water</a>.

Low oxygen may make you feel sleepy or headachy

Although air travel is generally safe, you can experience some not-so-pleasant side effects at 35,000 feet.

More than 45 million people are expected to fly on U.S. carriers this holiday season, and if you're one of them, you might not be looking forward to the yucky feeling air travel often leaves you with. Besides the airport crowds and stress, traveling at such a high altitude has real effects on the body. Although the barometric pressure of the cabin is adjusted to prevent altitude sickness, you could still experience sleepiness or a headache. 'The lower oxygen pressure found in an aircraft cabin is equivalent to 6,000 to 8,000 feet of altitude, similar to that of Mexico City,' says Paulo M. Alves, MD, global medical director of aviation health for the medical and travel safety services company MedAire. 'Oxygen partial pressure drops accordingly, creating a mild hypoxia [low oxygen], which can cause headache in some susceptible individuals.' One study from the U.K. showed passengers' oxygen levels dropped 4 percent, which could be a concern if you have heart or lung problems. To help prevent headaches, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Try these tricks to drink more water.

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