Air Travel and Hydration

Water—simple and pure; it is a key nutrient that is often taken for granted.  Airline travel creates an increased need for adequate hydration.  The saavy traveler is mindful of their body’s water requirements, as the travel environment contributes to significant water losses.  Not only are travelers experiencing physiological changes related to an increase in altitude, they are also exposed to low moisture levels.  Aircraft cabin humidity levels are unnaturally low, from 5-10%, creating an environment with less humidity than the Sahara Desert!

Dehydration often exaggerates jetlag.    Symptoms of dehydration may include dry chapped skin, increased wrinkles, dry eyes, thirst, tiredness, low urine output, dry mouth, headache, constipation, dizziness or lightheadedness.  Severe dehydration may result in low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, extreme thirst, dry skin, loss of skin elasticity, little or no urination, confusion, and fever.

Research has shown that adequate water intake may prevent heart attacks. One study found that individuals who drank five or more glasses of plain water a day had a much lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease compared to those who drank less than two glasses a day. The results of the study showed that drinking high amounts of plain water is as important as exercise, diet, and not smoking in preventing coronary heart disease.  It is noted that neither total fluid intake, or intake of other fluids combined, showed this reduced risk.  In contrast, for women, high intake (five or more glasses a day) of other fluids, showed a greatly increased risk of coronary heart disease.   “Water, Other Fluids and Fatal Coronary Heart Disease”. American Journal of Epidemiology (vol. 155, no.9)

So, how do you keep yourself hydrated when you travel?  Here are a few steps you can take to increase your water consumption on a daily basis that will keep you healthy, for home or travel.

  1. One of the most important habits to add to your life is drinking two 8 ounce glasses of warm, or room temperature water, when you first wake up in the morning.  Drinking water in the morning is an effective energy booster.  
  2. To experience the positive benefits of adequate hydration, tune into your thirst cues.  Many people actually eat when they are thirsty instead of providing their body with adequate water.  To encourage  water intake, fill a water bottle or pitcher with your daily water requirement in the morning and drink it throughout the day.  Set it on the counter where you will see it and be reminded to drink plenty of water.
  3. While traveling, and during flight, drink at least 8 or more ounces per hour, and avoid drinking alcohol, as alcohol actually dehydrates your body.  The body has to use water resources to process the other beverages you consume.  There may be conflicting evidence whether or not caffeine containing beverages have a diuretic effect, but excessive intake can cause dehydration.
  4. After a long flight, another way to replenish body water, and relieve some travel stress, is to submerge and soak in a hot tub, pool, or bath.  By immersing your entire body, even your head, moisture can actually be replenished directly through your pores. 

How much water is enough?  On average, adults need at least 6-10 cups (8 oz cups) of water a day.  Another way to tell if you are drinking enough is to note the color of your urine output.  If it is clear or slightly yellow, it means you are well hydrated (credit michael).  (Please note:  due to certain medical conditions there are some individuals who are not able to tolerate the above mentioned level of water intake. Please consult your physician for specific questions regarding your personal health needs).

To find out how much you need to drink, check out the online Water Requirement Calculator.

Enjoy healthy and hydrated travels!

  • lista costa breve

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of info. I am glad that you just shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

    April 9th, 2012 3:15
  • InflightDietitian

    Valuable information; thanks for sharing this link.

    April 11th, 2013 18:14
  • Kathryn Orr

    Great piece of advice. Also add: buy water from a vending machine past security if you can and bring it into the plane. You don’t want to be hassling the flight attendants to keep bringing more water when they can only bring small cups usually.

    November 10th, 2013 13:37

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