Travels For Business: Are They Worth It?

06 August 2014 |

While business travels are essential in this global village of ours, it is no secret that frequent and long distance travelling takes a toll on one’s health. Columbia University researchers have listed the jet lag and associated insomnia as one of the inevitable, yet most important health hazards. Jet lags disrupt the internal biological clocks, disturbing the sleep pattern and most often, depriving one of complete and recommended rest. What happens next? Kimbrough, a physician in Washington, states that this anomaly in routine will lead to an intoxicated form of behavior. Insomnia has been shown to disrupt the thinking process and exhaust both body and mind. Conclusively speaking, a meeting held with attendees going through jet lag and sleep deprivation will most likely result in blunders on their part.

Business travellers

The WRIGHT Project started by WHO in 2001 finds a positive correlation between deep venous thrombosis and airplane travels. For a clot to form, blood needs to be in a condition of stasis. During long distance flights, because the legs are motionless, clots form in the deep veins. Abbreviated as DVT, this phenomenon is dangerous not only because of ischemia it poses to the leg structures, but also because the thrombus has a tendency to dislodge. A dislodged thrombus travels to different sites in the body and is called an embolus. Some of the most dangerous sequel of this is pulmonary embolism (thrombus reaches lung vessels) and stroke (reaches cerebral vessels). Therefore, for people who travel frequently and travel long, it is recommended to take a dose of aspirin which helps through its anticoagulant properties.

Also, travel to different places, exposes one to major epidemics and endemics of those areas. While the US may not have large scale endemics, most of the other areas do. Frequently travelers are up against typhoid and malaria. Add this to the disturbed nutritional status they have during and throughout their journeys, and you get a classic case of low immunity. Many third world countries do not have proper hygiene, so the food eaten there might lead to health hazards like gastroenteritis. For a US resident who is particular about hygiene, sudden dehydration from profuse diarrhea and vomiting will constitute nothing short of a medical emergency. Other major threats include Hepatitis A and B.

While microbes and sanitation are certainly aspects to worry about, another major factor remains the most obvious one: weather. Many parts of the Asian and Australian continents have weathers around 51 degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit) during the summers. Extremes of temperatures, both hot and cold, can cause sudden disturbances. For example, stepping out of an air conditioned plane on to a crowded hot airport might cause intense headache. Changes of humidity and air can cause breathing problems; especially if the dust lingers or spring season is around the corner (pollen will be in the air during this time). Asthmatics, therefore, are at a greater health risk here.

Such information raises several questions. Are business trips really worth it? The answer, presumably, lies in the balance between protection and exposure. Some of the above mentioned problems may be solved using medication and vaccinations; exercise is said to help one snap out of jet lag earlier. Also, one might be able to take care of hygiene by specifically limiting what one eats and drinks during the trip. Having said this, it must also be mentioned that an area where unclean water is the rule, bottled water also comes pirated at many places. A weaker immune system will be a party for all the microbes. Moreover, the weather factor has to be faced at all costs. Can a company really afford to send people to such areas to expand their business? Are there certain measures the company can and should take? For one, all the employees must be vaccinated. For another, they must have good diet and good immunity. Cooked food and boiled water are a must! If possible, companies should have their own medical teams to accompany their employees on different trips.

Concluding it all, travelling poses a lot of health hazards, not only related to the journey but also to the area to which the person is travelling. Once the hazards are known, measures towards good health should be taken by the travelers.