Flying The Unfriendly Skies

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on November 2, 2016

jetinteriorIf you’re flying this Thanksgiving weekend, you might want to think about your voice. Why?  Let me explain.

We all know the air on planes is dry, but to say that spending a few hours on a plane is like breathing desert air is giving air travel a good name. Most deserts have a humidity range of 20 to 25 percent. Airplane humidity has the amazingly dry level of 5 to 10 percent. And airline companies have no desire to make planes more humid because of the increased weight, which means added expense as well as the risk of mold growth in the small, enclosed cabin of an airplane.

Breathing dry, re-circulated air is a special threat for your voice. (Learn about the need for a moist, healthy vocal tract in my video.) But even a short flight for as little as two hours can wreak havoc on your throat because on a plane you lose eight ounces of water by skin evaporation every hour. This means when you fly from New York to L.A. you will lose forty ounces of water through your skin alone. That’s as much as running an hour in 90-degree heat!

So what can you do to avoid this trap? First, drink lots of water to combat the dehydration.  You should begin increasing your water intake several days before your flight. And on the plane, drink at least eight ounces every hour.  There are lots of fun apps like MyFitnessPal for the iPhone or iPad to track water intake.

Another thing you might want to try is a non-medicinal saline nasal spray to help keep your nose and throat moistened. These are sold over the counter, and can provide a soothing relief for nose and throat.

And remember that planes are notorious germ carriers.  I generally take a disposable wipe like Wet Ones to do a quick cleaning of the airline seat arm rests, seat belt clasp, and the tray table.  It might seem embarrassing, but a cold or the flu can knock out your on-air work for a week or more.

Unfortunately, travel challenges to your vocal health do not end when you leave the airport. You may have unhealthy air in your hotel room and other public places such as stores when you’re shopping on Black Friday.  Continue drinking the water your body needs (click here to find out how much) and use the saline spray to moisturize your nose and throat.  You’ll feel better and have a healthier throat!

Ck out my e-book, BROADCASTER’S SURVIVAL GUIDEYou can read more about all aspects of voice health.  Helpful for Voice Artists, Broadcasters and Podcasters!   And it’s only $4.99.

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