Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
My husband and I arrived at LAX on Friday, July 1, 2011, with a new suitcase filled with winter clothes, because we were on our way to Buenos Aires for a week to dance tango. It is only when we got in line to check our luggage that we found out a volcano in Chile had re-erupted and all flights to Buenos Aires, parts of South America, and New Zealand were cancelled.
We had visited Argentina about five years ago, when our daughter was studying law at one of the universities for the summer. That first trip was fantastic! The dollar was strong, the beef was unbelievably tender (I ate beef in those days), the boulevards looked like Paris, Manu Ginobili posters were everywhere (although Argentina is more into soccer than basketball), and the Iguazu Falls (made up of 260 waterfalls) is truly a wonder of the world. There was tango music everywhere and people danced tango in the streets! This prompted us to try to learn how to dance the Argentine tango – what turned out to be the most difficult dance in the world.
We have rescheduled our trip for later this year. Given that the flights to Buenos Aires are anywhere from 17 to 19 hours, my husband and I have been strategizing about how to tolerate those long flights. Do we take an e-reader, a ton of books, try to sleep, watch the movies, try to get up and walk in the over-crowded aisles, eat the airplane food, or not eat the airplane food? We don’t travel that often, so we don’t have the routine down.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently published the 2012 version of the Yellow Book. This book is published every two years as a reference to those who advise international travelers about health risks. While the book is written for professionals, it is also useful for laypeople.
- Exercise, eat a healthful diet, and get plenty of rest.
- Begin to reset the body clock by shifting the timing of sleep to 1–2 hours later for a few days before traveling westward and shifting the timing of sleep to 1–2 hours earlier for a few days before traveling eastward.
- Seek exposure to bright light in the evening if traveling westward, in the morning if traveling eastward (although it requires high motivation and strict compliance with the prescribed light-dark schedules).
- Break up a long journey with a stopover, if possible.
Travelers should do the following during travel:
- Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.
- Move around on the plane to promote mental and physical acuity, as well as protect against deep vein thrombosis.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- Sleep, if possible, during long flights.
Travelers should do the following on arrival at the destination:
- Avoid situations requiring critical decision making, such as important meetings, for the first day after arrival.
- Adapt to the local schedule as soon as possible.
- Optimize exposure to sunlight after arrival from either direction.
- Eat meals appropriate to the local time, drink plenty of water, and avoid excess caffeine or alcohol.
- Take short naps (20–30 minutes) to increase energy but not undermine nighttime sleep.
The use of the nutritional supplement melatonin is controversial for preventing jet lag. Some clinicians advocate the use of 0.5–5.0 mg of melatonin during the first few days of travel, and data suggest its efficacy. However, its production is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and contaminants have been found in commercially available products. Current information also does not support the use of special diets to ameliorate jet lag.
If you have any hints on how to survive long flights, please let me know. If the volcano doesn’t erupt again, we’ll be on our way to Argentina later on this year.
Dianne Kujubu Belli is the Chief Administrative Officer of Keiro Senior HealthCare and Executive Director of The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro. Dianne stays genki by doing cardio and light weight training 4 days a week at the gym and recently started yoga on most weekends – which she describes as “a whole new experience.”
The material presented on this site is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the opinions of Keiro Senior HealthCare, The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro, or its contributors. Readers should consult appropriate health, legal, or financial professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. Full disclaimer
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