Dr. Murray Feingold: Air travel can raise anxiety levels

Dr. Murray Feingold

Air travel has had a huge impact on the way we live.

If you can't stand New England's cold weather, hop on a plane and in three hours you are in warm, sunny Florida.

Your grandchildren live far away in California and you want to see them. Hop on a plane and six hours later, your 8-month-old granddaughter is in your arms.

However, air travel may not be good for your emotional health.

The stress starts even before you get on the plane.

Because of today's traffic congestion, you worry that you won't get to the airport on time for your plane's departure. When you arrive at the airport, will you be able to find a parking place?

Now that your car is safely parked, more adversity awaits you.

Your suitcase is just 1 pound over the limit. You remove a book and some clothing and it is now at the acceptable 50-pound limit.

Time to face the biggest emotional obstacle -- going through security. You practically have to undress. You have an anxiety reaction worrying that someone in a strange uniform will pull you out of the line if front of all of your fellow passengers. You feel as if everyone is staring at you as the security person goes over you with some type of intimidating wand.

By the time you get dressed again, you are not sure what you did with your boarding pass.

And where are your shoes?

As you wait to board the plane, you worry that the crying baby or the person with a hacking cough will sit next to you.

You finally start to relax as the plane levels off at 35,000 feet. Then the passenger in front of you puts back his seat so he is almost sitting on your lap.

Times have changed. At one time the main concern when flying was having a safe trip. Today, except for an occasional lapse such as the pilot over-flying your destination, planes are quite safe.

But we now face a host of different issues. So be prepared.

However, sitting on the beach and enjoying the warm weather in January, or spending quality time with the grandchildren, hopefully, is worth the emotional trauma you may face getting there.

Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.