How To Prevent Air Sickness While Flying

02.27.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

There are few things more exciting than embarking on a new adventure or dream vacation. But for those who experience airplane motion sickness, the excitement of travel can quickly turn to discomfort. 

There are steps you can take to manage air sickness. These include avoiding alcohol, staying hydrated, and watching what you eat.

Read on to discover more helpful tips to reduce stress, help prevent air sickness, and make sure you arrive at your destination feeling ready for adventure.

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What causes airplane motion sickness? 

There are a few things that can cause air sickness on an airplane. Most commonly, it’s due to: 

  1. The motion of the plane itself, such as bumps and air turbulence.

  1. The air pressure inside the plane  differing from the air pressure outside, which can cause illness for some travelers.

But, why? 

When you fly, your body is working to react to varying signals of movement. The body’s vestibular system senses movement in one way, but the brain interprets it differently from what your eyes actually see. Your eyes, inner ear, and brain are sensing conflicting movement, creating motion-sickness symptoms. 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, illness, certain medications, alcohol, anxiety, and stress can all make a person more susceptible to airsickness. 

What are some symptoms of air sickness?

While nausea or vomiting are the most common symptoms of airsickness, travelers may also experience: 

  • Fatigue and yawning 

  • Chills or sweats 

  • Headache 

  • Dizziness 

What can I do before a flight to help prevent air sickness? 

Preventing airplane motion sickness starts long before you board. 

Reduce the chance of air sickness symptoms by:

  • Eating a light meal the night before you flight. 

  • Staying hydrated: drink plenty of water the day before your flight and bring a refillable water bottle to the airport so you can sip water after security screening.

  • Fighting digestive issues by avoiding salty, fatty, spicy, or greasy foods.

  • Not flying on an empty stomach.

  • Packing some crackers in your carryon bag to nibble on before or during the flight.

  • Arriving at the airport a little earlier, so you have plenty of time to find your gate and reduce stress or anxiety through meditation or breathing techniques.

  • Breaking up long-haul air travel with an extended layover to help rest and reset between flights.

  • Picking a seat on the plane that can reduce air sickness.

What’s the best seat on the plane to select to prevent air sickness?

Choosing the right seat on a plane can make a difference in air sickness symptoms for many travelers, and that doesn’t necessarily mean splurging on a first-class ticket either.  

The more stable seats on a plane are above or over the wings, typically around rows 10-30, where you may feel less turbulence. Choosing a window seat can also help, as watching the horizon sends equalizing signals to the brain. 

However, some people find that sitting in the aisle seat instead of a window seat might help, so they can get up and move around the plane more easily. 

If you suffer from air sickness, it may give you peace of mind — and reduce your chance of airplane motion sickness — to select one of these seats when booking your travel.  

What are the best treatments for airplane motion sickness? 

There are a few different remedies that can help prevent air sickness — so it’s important to find out what works for you.  

Some people find that keeping their head still and focusing on one object helps, while others prefer drinking ginger ale or eating ginger root. There are also medications available that can be taken before boarding an airplane to help prevent air sickness. 

Helpful airsickness treatments can include the following:

  • Discuss an over-the-counter antihistamine drug with your doctor. Dramamine, Bonine, or Antivert can make you drowsy, so test them out well before your flight. Scopolamine and Promethazine are both prescription drugs to also talk with your doctor about.

  • Some travelers find airsickness relief by applying pressure along your wrist with an acupressure technique called nei-kuan P6. Alternatively, acupressure bands such as Sea-Bands may be effective to use during your flight.

  • Try aromatherapy: ginger, peppermint or lavender essential oils in a mini travel roller or necklace helps some travelers relax and combat symptoms of airplane motion sickness.

  • Sipping chamomile tea can help to soothe your stomach.

  • Ginger tablets or ginger lollipops can help reduce nausea symptoms.

What can I do during the flight to prevent airsickness?

What to do during a flight: 

  • Dress in layers in order to keep your body temperature comfortable. Those who experience anxiety due to airplane motion sickness can often feel hot and sweaty, so being easily able to remove layers of clothing as needed is helpful.  

  • Increase airflow around your seat by pointing the air vent at your face. 

  • Fix your gaze on the horizon to help your body deal with the conflicting motion your body is feeling. 

  • Ask for ginger ale and sip slowly throughout the flight.

  • Bring ginger tablets: a 250 mg capsule, three times throughout the day you fly may help alleviate symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

  • Stay positive and try to focus on other things, like listening to music or having a conversation with your travel buddy.

  • Find a seating position that helps you feel better, such as leaning further back in the seat.

What to avoid while flying

  • Avoid alcohol, as it causes dehydration and can worsen symptoms of air sickness.

  • Avoid reading and digital devices, which can add to the conflicting signals your body is already dealing with. Listening to music can be more helpful for travelers who commonly experience airplane motion sickness.

Can I experience air sickness after flying?

For some travelers, the symptoms of air sickness don’t end once the plane lands.  

Factors such as breathing in denser oxygen during the flight, sitting for a long period of time, and changes in air pressure may contribute to feeling ill after a flight too. Most commonly, travelers may feel tired, queasy or have a headache.  

Tips to beat air sickness after a flight:

  • Move around: take a walk in fresh air.

  • Get some light exercise.

  • Eat a healthy meal.

  • Keep drinking plenty of water to restore any in-flight dehydration.

  • Avoid alcohol.

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