Tag Archives: flying

YOR EYES IN THE SKIES: How to avoid eye problems while flying

3 Dec

Date: 3rd December 2010

Author: Dr Anand Shroff

About: Cornea and LASIK surgeon, Shroff Eye Hospital, Mumbai

Contact: Shroff Eye Hospital and LASIK Centre, 222 S V Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai –400 050 | Ph: 66921000

Shroff Eye Clinic, Gobind Mahal, Marine Drive , Mumbai -400002 | Ph: 22814077

LASIK Helpline: 98211-63901  | www.shroffeye.org |  www.lasikindia.in |  www.pathologylabindia.com

The dry air in the cabins of modern jets causes rapid evaporation of tears from the eyes surface. Without sufficient moisture the cornea, which is the transparent “watch glass” that lies over the iris (coloured part of the eye) can be deprived of oxygen and cause your eyes to become irritated.

There are many environmental reasons, which dehydrate the eyes’ tear film and cause dry eye symptoms. While most people think that this only occurs outdoor due to intense sunlight, many indoor conditions can be a much greater problem because of re-circulated air, artificial lighting, cleaning products, etc.

Symptoms of dry eye

  • Redness
  • Scratchy feeling in the eyes
  • Vision can get blurred

What makes symptoms worse?

  • Reading on the plane adds to the problem because you tend to blink less frequently when you read, leading to more evaporation of moisture from the eyes.
  • Wearing your contact lenses during a long flight can result in symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain.

This problem can occur with all types of contact lenses: hard, soft, gas permeable, or extended-wear due to less oxygen reaching the cornea. Dry air in the cabin evaporates the water from the contact lenses and contributes to the problem. Hence, if you are a contact lens wearer, it is better to wear spectacles in flight.

How can you avoid problems?

  • Put artificial tears or lubricating eye drops in your eyes during a flight as often as you feel they are necessary.
  • Airline personnel who wear contacts and have discomfort should always use these drops routinely.
  • It may be wiser to remove the contacts and wear your eyeglasses when flying.


  • Carry a spare pair of spectacles especially if you have high numbers.
  • Carrying your spectacle prescription may also be handy.
  • Most airports are equipped reading glasses for those above forty; also available are contact lens cases and solutions.
  • Speak to your eye doctor to prescribe you a simple and safe antibiotic eye drop in case of red eyes due to infection.
  • Avoid putting spectacles in pockets, as is commonly a habit, carry a pouch instead for safekeeping.
  • If you are escaping the summer heat and heading towards a snowy region, there is extra care you have to take as far as eyes go. Snow can blind you! So use good ultra violet protected eyewear.



  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, beverages. A glass of water every hour is good.
  • Put a pillow behind the small of your back to avoid backaches.
  • Take an occasional stroll around the cabin. This is especially for those who are overweight or have high-risk conditions such as high blood pressure. By moving around you will decrease the risk of deep venous thrombosis, which in simple terms is blood clotting in the lower limbs.
  • Bring a sweater or jacket – airplane cabins are usually cool.
  • Use lip-balm, moisturiser and eye-drops/contact lens lubricant to combat the effects of cabin dryness.
  • The relatively low air pressure in your aircraft can cause discomfort. If your ears bother you during takeoff and landing, try yawning, chewing gum or doing this: pinch your nostrils shut, inhale, close your mouth and try gently to blow your nose. Children should be encouraged to drink or suck on sweets especially during take- offs and landings.

If you have a cold, the dry air will make your sinuses feel worse. If you are taking medications, carry them with you in the cabin.  See your physician to rule out infection. Also, your fellow passengers will appreciate it because everyone is more susceptible to catching a cold in dry air than in moist due to the effect.

  • Always wash your hands as soon as possible after contacting surfaces in the public domain such as handrails, counter tops and doorknobs.
  • Use a hand sanitizer after washing and when soap and water are not readily available.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance is one of the best investments you can make when planning a vacation



In spite of your zealous efforts of doing and packing everything, having done your hair, nails and just about everything before taking off on your vacation, you still look “black-eyed” with deep black rings under your eyes and puffy lids!!  Blame it on ‘jet lag’!  Your regular internal clock is rather topsy-turvy at the moment. Disrupted eating pattern, bowel pattern and irregular and interrupted sleep pattern is why we get jet lag.



  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol, as it tends to dehydrate your body.
  • Do stretching exercises in your seat to avoid cramped muscles.
  • Walk around the cabin during your flight, if possible.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes.
  • Be well rested before you leave.
  • Make sure your pre-flight diet contains plenty of starch, carbohydrates and greens.
  • Arrange in-flight meals to reflect the time-of-day at your destination.
  • Set your watch to your destination time as you take off. Then start programming your body to it.
  • Allow a day for each time zone to get over the jet lag.

Medical option?

There is a drug called ‘Melatonin’ for jet lag problems. It is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps to control the body’s sleep/wake cycle. By resetting the body’s internal clock, melatonin can treat the underlying cause of all jet lag problems, which is the disruption of the natural sleep/wake cycle. However, your physician should advise it.


Issued in public interest by Shroff Eye Hospital, Mumbai, India

India’s first Eye Hospital to be accredited by JCI- Joint Commission International (USA) for excellence in patient care and healthcare delivery.


Open your eyes…to a whole new world


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