Saturday, 11 May 2019

What happens to your body when you drink alcohol on a plane?

What happens to your body when you drink alcohol on a plane?    by Didi Aaftink

Photo KLM
Soon the holiday season will again be upon us and the numbers of leisure travellers descending on our airports will peak. You know the feeling all too well: excitement; finally having the time to make a journey you’ve looked forward to; visiting relatives in far-off countries; a long-awaited hiking break; or even just some quality time to read a good book…. Whatever, it’s a well-earned opportunity to cross off something nice from your ‘to do’ list!

On arriving at the airport, before boarding your plane, you have time to drop by one of the tax-free shops, after which you allow yourself the luxury of an alcoholic beverage. It’s finally time to relax. Then, onboard your flight, shortly after take-off the stewardess offers you a welcome drink. Wow, now your journey is really underway! And I can totally relate to the mood, reports KLM's Didi Aaftink.

But… what exactly happens to your body when you drink alcohol on a plane?

What happens when you drink alcohol?
After drinking an alcoholic beverage what’s known as blood alcohol content (BAC) takes between 30 to 60 minutes to peak and reach its maximum effect. Needless to say, consuming several alcoholic beverages during a short period of time can easily mean you are expecting your body to cope with more alcohol than your liver can process. In such a case the excess alcohol will travel through your bloodstream un-metabolised and unchanged. The concentration of alcohol in the blood, or BAC, will then increase.

As it travels through your bloodstream, the alcohol eventually reaches your brain, where it acts as a sedative and slows down transmissions and impulses between the nerve cells that control your ability to think and move. Although alcohol is a depressant, it also removes inhibitions, which explains the sometimes happy and other times aggressive behaviour associated with drinking alcohol. It also increases the flow of fluid through your kidneys, increasing the likelihood of becoming dehydrated.

What happens when you drink alcohol on board a plane?
During a flight, the barometric pressure in the cabin of a plane is lower than it is in most places on earth. You can compare it with an altitude in the mountains of between 1,800 and 2,200 metres. This decreased pressure environment diminishes the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and it can produce light-headedness. We call this hypoxia. Generally speaking, this is not an issue but the feeling could be similar to the experience you have after drinking alcohol.

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