That guy in front of you at the gate looks pretty funny with the oversized fleece blanket around his shoulders, neck, pillow in his arms, feet, dressed in high support socks, and an anti-nausea band on each wrist.
But do not laugh, the joke can be. Medical experts say that many of these common travel trinkets can be very useful if you’re in for a long-haul flight in economy.
Here are a number of items that you want (and what you can leave on the shelf) the next time you’re at 30,000 feet.
A neck pillow
It can be a pain in the neck to carry, but it is better than the persistent severe pain in the neck. Airline seats force your head into an uncomfortable, and sometimes unnatural, position, which prevents your spine relax fully, said Dr. Randy Shelerud, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic. The right pillow will apply pressure in the ideal places to correct.
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“The main advantage is that there is direct support in the middle of the cervical spine with these cushions, so that less pressure on the cervical facets in the middle of the spine. The airline seats force one’s head in a bit of flexion, not to allow the cervical spine, muscles [in principle, all the muscles along the spine] the opportunity to fully relax,” said Shelerud FoxNews.com.
“The pillows prevent neck symptoms.”
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They come in inflatable or filled, and which ones you want — if you want — is it just a matter of comfort. “A lot of them, but it is individualized. Just need to try it and see,” says Dr. Peter Gay, Shelerud colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, Centre for sleep medicine.
Travel & Leisure recommends the Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow, which folds over your shoulder and across your body or on your side when it is inflated. Also leave in a small role that snaps into a carry-on.
Sentence in? If you suffer from neck or upper back pain, a travel pillow is worth a try.
Victoria Sowards, director of nursing resources for Passport Health, travel health provider, suggests that this is a BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket) affair. “To be one of home, you know it is clean and germ free,” she said.
Although high-end cashmere travel blankets are all the rage with celebrities, avoid spending too much on anything that requires dry cleaning. Between spilled drinks during turbulent flights, and the general wear-and-tear, let the three-figure throws home.
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Fun compression socks actually exist.
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Sowards recommends breathable and machine washable options. Pillow throw combo TheCompanyStore.com unfolds into a throw blanket, and when in the case is a soft pillow.
TravelSmith.com’ Coolmax Travel Blanket stored away in a bag about the size of the drinking glass, and got the highest reviews online for lightweight, breathable and easily washable.
Sentence in? Don’t waste money on expensive plush blankets but something small that you can easily wash is worth it if you get cold while flying.
They are all the rage on the late-night infomercials, and they are a healthy choice on long international trips, especially for flyers with medical conditions that can lead to blood clots. “Travel in the interior can cause problems,” Sowards said, “but if the traveller remembers to move their ankles often and to get up and stretch, the chance of blood clots to reduce.”
If you do not have a pre-existing medical condition, but you are planning to do a lot of sight-seeing on your destination, compression socks may be a good idea. “I actually love compression socks,” Kyle McCarthy, author and editor of Family Travel Forum, says FoxNews.com. “They are great if you are wearing flats on the cobblestone streets or the endless museums. They are really offer support, so my feet don’t feel sore after a long day.”
Lilly, Trotters offers fashionable patterned compression socks with moisture-wicking and antimicrobial cushioned heels ($48), but you can have less expensive options for around $30.
Sentence in? Get up every hour or so is the best way to prevent serious medical conditions such as blood clots. But if your doctor has suggested compression socks in the past, a new pair can’t hurt.
Wristbands and earbuds
Wristbands for alleviating motion sickness, and ear plugs for relieving air pressure discomfort are available at many U.S. airports.
Whether they actually work varies widely by the consumer.
“Sea-Bands and EarPlanes are products that have not been medically tested in large studies,” said Sowards. “I personally feel that if these products relieve the discomfort of motion sickness and/or ear discomfort, go ahead and use them.”
But there are better solutions if it is one of the pain, is your baby or young child. Parents should encourage babies to drink or suck on a bottle, and older children may chew on something like gum, says Dr. Elizabeth Murray, assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Rochester.
Sentence in? Children are not likely to be using these items; adults can try at your own risk, but don’t plan on one of both wonders. Suffering from a severe ear pain or nausea? Please consult your doctor.
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Personal comfort is the key
Pauline Frommer, often as editorial director of Frommer’s, to say that they are not using one of these trendy products. For long flights, it is all about comfortable clothing. “Yoga pants and a sports bra with a long-sleeve but loose-fitting shirt and a cardigan for layering,” says Frommer. FoxNews.com “It is the closest to pajamas I’m going to be in the public…”
Already many celebrities seen jetsetting in tight jeans and sky-high heels, loose-fitting, breathable fabric, with a number of racks is probably ideal more flyers.
Cheap travel gifts for the health conscious traveler
You don’t have to shell out big dough to amp up the comfort factor on your next flight. Here are a number of cheaper items of the frequent flyer in your life will appreciate this holiday season:
—A new water bottle as the vacuum-insulated Camelbak Chute ($28), which the travelers can fill out once they have cleared security and cold water on a long flight. Dry cabin air can lead to dehydration and make flyers more susceptible to bacteria, so staying hydrated is important when flying.
–Lip balm or hand cream to help fight the dry air.
—Eye shades to help travelers sleep on long flights. Eagle Creek has them starting at $10.95.
–Hand sanitizer in a fun color, a smell like the holiday PocketBac sanitizers from Bath & Body Works.
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third edition of the Kid’s Guide to new YORK has just been released.