8 Staggering Things That Happen to Your Body When Flying

December 7, 2016

People have differing opinions when it comes to hopping aboard a plane. While some are perfectly comfortable with hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, others have a genuine phobia of flying.

If everyone knew exactly what happened to your body when flying, they might all have the exact same opinion.

Microscopic Fellow Passengers

It’s a little gross, but you can expect roughly 50% of the air you’re travelling in to be contaminated with germs, thanks largely to the recycling system used on board.

You’re 100 times more likely to get a cold while flying on a plane than you are going about your average day-to-day life – which is why so many people get sick after a vacation.

A Free X-ray

Somewhat worryingly, travellers on a plane heading off seven hours from New York to London are exposed to the same amount of radiation as they would get from an X-ray.

Cosmic rays from the sun might not have much of an impact on us while we’re down on Earth, but when we get that close to the immense body of heat itself, things are very different.


It’s probably not something you really think about when flying, but the process itself actually causes you to lose a heap of water.

A single three-hour flight has the capability to burn off as much as 1.5 litres, while mild humid conditions inside the cabin can cause the mucous membranes of your nose, throat and mouth to dry out.

Blood Collecting in Legs

When you sit down and experience such immense pressures throughout your journey, all the blood will naturally rush to your legs.

Deep vein thrombosis is the most common side effect of this kind of fluid dispersal in your body – with people who are particularly overweight sometimes at higher risk of contracting this.

Taste Lost

The immense altitude of flight also wreaks havoc on the senses, with changes to the dryness and air pressure causing one third of your taste buds to become numbed.

The Japanese have been experimenting with the concept of umami (a fifth tasting sense) for some time – with efforts put into finding foods which are high in this and have more taste during flight as a result.

Dangerous Waters

Distressingly, it’s been proven water on an airplane consists of several different harmful bacteria – including viruses as severe as E.coli.

Unfortunately, this leaves you at something of a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” stand-off. You’ll need to stay hydrated, but the water provided to keep you that way is tainted. Decisions, decisions.


While you won’t notice too much change, the air pressure you experience mid-flight will be great enough to cause your body to begin “inflating”.

Don’t worry, you won’t explode, but it’s certainly something to bear in mind when you’re up in the air. It might freak you out a little if you’re not expecting it.

You May Pass Out

Yes, as if things couldn’t get any worse, it is actually possible to pass out as a direct result of being up in the air aboard a plane.

With most cabins consisting of 75% air pressure, there’s a good chance you can develop a condition like Hypoxia – which has been known to cause dizziness, headaches and fatigue.

Some of these factors will have even the most confident flyer quaking in their boots a tad. Make sure you remember some of these scary symptoms the next time you get on a plane.

About Real Deal

On the Real Deal, women share the highlights and challenges from their recent trip–and what they wish they knew before going.

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