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Travel health – sorted!

Our team offers advice on tackling holiday-related health issues, including tips for reader Lisa Mason-Green to help ease long-haul jet lag

Q. ‘Help me sort my jet lag!’

Lisa, 41, from Northampton, says: ‘I’m off to Australia for a month in the summer to visit friends. The last time I went, I spent the first three weeks feeling really jet-lagged. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to drift off again, then sleep in until midday – and spend my waking hours feeling exhausted and lacking in energy. This time, I’ve got a packed schedule and I don’t want to waste time in bed – or nod off while standing up (true story!). How can I get over it on this trip?’

A. The pharmacist

Tom Kallis, Boots pharmacist, says: ‘As soon as you get on the plane, set your watch to Australian time and begin eating and sleeping at the usual hours for that time zone. This will help your body get in sync from the outset. It might be tricky to sleep if the cabin lights are on, though, so pack an eye mask in your hand luggage – blocking out light will prompt your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.’

The diet expert

Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington says: ‘Make sure you drink lots of water before, during and after your flight – aim for at least 6-8 glasses in 24 hours. Being well-hydrated can help keep up your energy levels, while dehydration will affect the quality of your sleep. You might be tired when you land, but reaching for sugary foods can cause dramatic fluctuations in your blood-sugar levels, so choose a wholegrain snack instead to help keep you on an even keel.’

The sleep guru

Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council says: ‘Try to book a flight that arrives in the evening, so you won’t have to spend your first day struggling to stay awake. If you can’t choose when you fly, get plenty of sunshine once you’ve landed – it’ll help reset your body clock. The first night, go to bed at 10pm local time. If you wake up early, use the “song line technique” (take a line of a favourite song and repeat it) to help you switch off again. Get up at the same time every morning, to help you adjust to the new zone. Really tired during the day? Then take a short nap – any longer than 40 minutes might stop you sleeping well later.’

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Q. ‘How can I avoid deep vein thrombosis when flying?’

A. Tom says: ‘DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein – usually in the leg – which you can get from sitting still for a long time, like you do on a long-haul flight. Also, if you take the combined contraceptive pill or are on hormone-replacement therapy, your risk of blood clotting is slightly increased. If left untreated, it can lead to a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs). So walk around the plane regularly to stop blood pooling in your lower legs, and when sitting, flex your legs, feet and toes every half an hour. Consider flight socks, too – they apply gentle pressure to help the upward flow of blood.’

In-flight kit

These below-the-knee Boots Pharmaceuticals Flight Socks Compression Level 14-17mmHg, £14.99/ 1,499 points (sizes 3½-7½; 1 pair), might not be the chicest thing ever, but when they may help combat DVT, who cares?

Q. ‘My family is going to South America this summer. Where can we find out which vaccinations we need?’

A. Tom says: ‘It’s easy – just go online to boots.com/travelhealth, where there’s a “quick check” tool that can tell you which vaccinations and antimalarials you may need, and how much they cost. If you do require jabs or tablets, you can then book an appointment at your nearest Boots pharmacy that offers the Travel Vaccinations And Health Advice Service**.

Plan ahead

Ideally, go to boots.com/travelhealth about 6-8 weeks before your trip, so you have time to get any vaccinations. But if you’ve left it late, the service may still be able to help.

Q ‘I keep hearing how many germs there are on planes. Is there a way to dodge them?’

A. Tom says: ‘There’s no robust evidence to say that we’re more susceptible to germs while in the air than when we’re on the ground. Staying hydrated and well-rested can boost general wellbeing, though, so pay more attention to these things before and during your flight. And every time you touch a new surface with your hands (think tray tables, door handles and armrests), use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser afterwards, or wash hands with soap and water, to help avoid bugs.’

Don’t forget..

…to take Carex Moisture Plus Hand Gel, £1.45/145 points (50ml), on the plane. With the Boots Order & Collect service, you can order products in advance and pick them up at the airport after going through security.

*Available in selected stores. **Selected stores only; subject to eligibility and availability; charges apply. †Order five days in advance; available at selected airports only; for more info, go to boots.com/shopyourway.

Compiled by Charlotte Grant-West Photography Getty Images, Helen Marsden, Pixeleyes Hair and make-up Liz Kitchiner Styling Angela Barnard

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