LifestyleAlcohol on airplanes: New study reveals serious health risks

Alcohol on airplanes: New study reveals serious health risks

Drinking alcohol during a flight can have dire consequences.
Drinking alcohol during a flight can have dire consequences.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Jaromir Chalabala

11:06 AM EDT, June 4, 2024

Travelers often turn to alcoholic beverages during airplane trips. Some do it to manage their fear, others for social reasons or to pass the time. However, it turns out that consuming alcohol during a flight is a very bad idea.

Scientists have published studies showing that combining alcohol and naps during a flight is the worst thing we can do for our health. According to researchers from the Institute of Aviation Medicine in Germany, this is related to the reduced air pressure in the cabin.

Consuming alcohol during a flight is highly harmful

"Consuming alcohol on board poses an underestimated health risk that can be avoided. It may be beneficial to consider changing regulations restricting access to alcoholic beverages on airplanes," the researchers stated in an article published in Thorax.

Researchers point out that heart and circulatory system problems are the cause of 7% of sudden medical cases during flights, and cardiac arrest accounts for 58% of all in-flight interventions.

Being in a hypobaric environment (with low air pressure) decreases oxygen levels in the blood and increases heart rate. Airline passengers with heart problems are at increased risk of symptom exacerbation due to the reduced cabin pressure at cruising altitude, which intensifies during sleep.

Alcohol on board puts a significant strain on the heart

The authors of the text have no doubt that alcohol consumed during a flight has similar effects. To verify this, they examined 48 people aged 18 to 40. They discovered that the combination of alcohol and low oxygen levels at high altitudes worsens sleep quality and leads to prolonged low oxygen levels in the blood.

Alcohol significantly reduces the quality of sleep during a flight.
Alcohol significantly reduces the quality of sleep during a flight.© Adobe Stock | Milan Vasicek

"These results indicate that even in young and healthy individuals, the combination of alcohol consumption and sleep in hypobaric conditions places a significant burden on the cardiovascular system and can lead to symptom exacerbation in patients with heart or lung diseases."

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