How Long to Take an Aspirin Before Flying

Passengers Sitting on a Plane
Take an 81 mg aspirin rather than a full-strength aspirin. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Air travel can be an uncomfortable experience, causing headaches from the change in air pressure, aches from sitting in one place and, in rare cases, serious health conditions. Taking an aspirin before your flight can help ease pain and prevent problems such as blood clots. Talk to your doctor before your flight if you want to take an aspirin to make sure it's safe, especially if you have a preexisting medical condition.

Reasons to Take Aspirin

Taking aspirin before your flight can help stave off mild aches and pains from sitting on an airplane for an extended period of time. Airplane cabins also have low air pressure at cruising altitude, reducing blood oxygen levels and inducing headaches, which aspirin can treat. More importantly, aspirin thins the blood, making you less likely to develop blood clots from sitting in one place too long. Since lower oxygen levels and dehydration can make deep vein thrombosis -- or blood clots -- more likely, aspirin can be particularly effective on a flight, as opposed to when you're traveling by another method or just sitting at a desk all day.

Timing Your Dose

The best time to take a baby aspirin is 30 minutes before your flight departs, though any time within three hours before departure is fine.This gives the aspirin time to start working and ensures it lasts a long time -- perhaps even for your flight home, though you can take another baby aspirin before your return flight, if it's on a different day. Aspirin stems blood platelets' production of clotting agent thromboxane, and the effect can last for several days after your dose.

Considerations

Discuss aspirin with your doctor before you travel, as aspirin is not safe for everyone. Problems that make aspirin dangerous include bleeding stomach ulcers, clotting disorders that make you bleed longer before clotting, previous heart attacks and aspirin allergies. Also, aspirin only prevents certain types of blood clots -- namely, those that don't primarily consist of fibrin -- which means that they are not effective against deep vein clots that most commonly form in the legs from not moving around enough.

Additional Tips

Other ways to stay healthy and help prevent blood clots on a flight include drinking a glass of water every hour or two, flexing your feet to keep your blood circulating and walking up the cabin aisle when the fasten seat belt sign is off to stretch. Wear loose clothes. If your doctor recommends it, you can wear compression stockings that help straighten your veins and improve blood circulation in your legs.

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