How Air Travel and Jet Lag Could Affect Your Anemia

Editor’s Note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should not use it to replace any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health issues. Any questions about your blood health should be directed toward a physician, hematologist, or other licensed healthcare professional.

Got a big trip planned? Fasten your seatbelt, put your seat up, and find out how traveling through time zones affects your blood health.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking. Please pay attention to the crew’s safety presentation. Our cruising altitude will be about 35,000 feet and you may feel some turbulence. And when we land, your anemia may feel a little worse than usual.

Traveling in general can be rough, especially if it’s through time zones, but it can be worse for people with chronic anemia or low hemoglobin. But that’s why you have us—we’re here to give you first-class information on how to handle your anemia when traveling.

Readers, please prepare for takeoff…

How Air Travel Impacts Your Anemia

Even before the dreaded effects of jet lag kick in, your body experiences some disruptions just by sitting in the airplane, especially if you have low hemoglobin or are at risk for anemia (this is especially true for people with sickle cell anemia).

If you’ve ever been mountain climbing, or watched a documentary about it, you know that it gets harder to breathe as you ascend the peak. That’s why airplanes must have pressurized cabins to provide adequate oxygen to passengers and crew members (essentially, the plane’s engines compress air and direct some of it to the cabin).

This becomes more vital as the plane reaches its cruising altitude, where oxygen is less readily available than it is at sea level.

But that pressurized environment may present problems for people with certain health problems, like anemia. Your body’s gasses expand during this time, which decreases the amount of oxygen available in the blood.

This can result in lightheadedness, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats, according to studies.

It should be noted that not everyone with anemia will experience this, and most researchers agree that it’s only of major concern for those with sickle cell or anyone with a hemoglobin concentration of 8.5 g/dl.

If you have any concerns about an upcoming trip, you should consult your physician.

Jet Lag and Anemia

Is it Friday or Saturday? And why do you feel like falling asleep at 11 a.m.? Ah, it’s jet lag.

Everyone loves being in a new city or country, but the fatigue that comes with jet lag is never fun for anybody. For those with anemia, it can be even worse.

One reason is because when our sleep patterns are disrupted, our hemoglobin levels can actually drop.

Poor sleep can also impact the way we eat, and researchers have found that people often make poor diet choices when they’re sleep-deprived. For people with anemia or low hemoglobin, this can mean either choosing foods that are low in iron (necessary for hemoglobin production) or foods that you should avoid if you have anemia.

Here are some tips from The Sleep Foundation, a website staffed with sleep experts and doctors, on how to minimize the effects of jet lag:

  • Get a few good nights of sleep before your flight—it will set you up for success
  • Don’t get too stressed, as we know your mental health can affect how you feel physically
  • Have a light first day. You can save all the fun stuff for when you’re more accustomed to your new time zone
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat healthy

Pre-Check with AnemoCheckHands holding a passport and phone with the Anemocheck app

Passport? Check. Spare socks? Check. AnemoCheck? Check! Before you takeoff, check your hemoglobin levels to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and can make the most out of your well-deserved vacation.

Click here to download the app via the iOS or Android app stores.

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