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Common Health Concerns of Commercial Airline Pilots

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When you travel by air, you do everything you can to be comfortable. By wearing the softest clothing possible and stretching your legs, you assure yourself of arriving at your destination refreshed. However, people that work in the airline industry, like pilots, often don't have this luxury. You almost never see a pilot during a flight and being stuck in a tiny cockpit can have consequences. Here are a few of the most common health concerns that affect commercial airline pilots.

Deep Vein Thrombosis
If you're a frequent traveler, you've heard about the perils of deep vein thrombosis. This condition happens when a blood clot forms in your lower leg, thigh or other part of the body. It can be caused by obesity, smoking and sitting for long periods of time. To combat deep vein thrombosis, pilots should stretch their legs or walk around at least every hour. In some cases, doctors may recommend the use of compression stockings to prevent blood from pooling up in the lower legs.

Poor Nutrition
Pilots and other flight crew are notorious for bad eating habits. High-carb airline meals combined with limited offerings in an airport can be a recipe for high blood pressure, skyrocketing cholesterol and weight gain. Pilots should be diligent about finding healthier airport foods such as salads, yogurt and fruit. Another option is to pack nutritious snacks like nuts, granola and use a nutritious thrive experience plan that's easily packed into a carry-on.

Sleep Disorders
You know how poorly you feel when jet lag sets in? Imagine how this must be for pilots that regularly fly on long trips. For those in aviation, it's not uncommon to experience disruptions such as sleep deprivation on the job, and bouts of insomnia during down time. Sporadic schedules interrupt the circadian rhythm and lead to fatigue. Recommended treatments include quality sleep before flights, using caffeine at appropriate intervals and plenty of interaction with crew members during shifts.

Skin Cancer
One surprising peril of flying an aircraft is the danger of skin cancer. As you know, it's always sunny above the clouds and many times pilots are hit directly with ultraviolet rays. Higher elevations also mean the sunlight isn't filtered like it is on the ground and it's compounded the closer you get to the equator. Sunscreen must be used faithfully every day and reapplied often. Pilots should also report any incident of skin spots or moles to a doctor immediately.

Stress and Anxiety
Airline pilots have a tremendous amount of responsibility and that creates stress. Pilots have to contend with irregular shifts, staying on tight schedules, foul weather patterns and concerns over getting diverted. They're also responsible for every person on board. This stress and anxiety can manifest itself at any time including in-flight. It's important for pilots to know how to deal with tension by anticipating problems and formulating a plan. It's also crucial to maintain good communication with all other flight crew.

Sinus Infections
Though it might not sound serious, sinus infections can be a real pain especially to pilots. Air on a plane is especially dry and that can spell out trouble for sinuses. Add in changes in cabin pressure and an infection could become excruciating. For anyone that's susceptible to sinus problems, a nasal rinse helps before and after a flight. Pilots should avoid touching the face, use lots of hand sanitizer and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Risk Management
While pilots have one of the most admired jobs ever, potential health risks come as part of the package. Physical maladies, such as sleep problems and poor nutrition, can be easily dealt with by making a few lifestyle changes. Stress and anxiety can also be managed by identifying the problem and seeking the proper outlets. While any job has its pitfalls, a career as an airline pilot has more positive points than negative and there's nothing else like it in the world.

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