How to Prevent Airsickness on Long Flights

Airplane on runway
Airplane on the tarmac of an airport. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The motion of an airplane can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness in people who are particularly sensitive to movement. Motion sickness occurs due to a conflict between what you see and what the balance system in your inner ear senses. Because air travel involves both horizontal and vertical movement, your brain receives conflicting messages, which can result in motion sickness symptoms. While airplane sickness can’t be cured, there are several methods available to prevent and treat the problem.

Step 1

Select a seat over the wing to minimize the amount of movement you will feel when the plane is in the air. The symptoms of motion sickness are more likely to occur in the areas of the plane in which you feel the most movement.

Step 2

Ask what size plane will be used for a flight before you make your selection. If you are a passenger in a small plane, movement and turbulence will be much more noticeable. Larger planes are equipped with stabilizers that help reduce excess motion that can cause airplane sickness.

Step 3

Eat a small meal before you board the plane. Heavy foods may make you feel worse, should motion sickness occur. If the airline is serving meals, choose light foods that aren’t greasy or spicy.

Step 4

Pack crackers and ginger ale in your carry-on luggage. If you do start feeling sick, these items can help settle your stomach. Ginger candy or gum can also be effective in reducing air sickness.

Step 5

Choose a window seat. Looking at the horizon may help reduce queasiness and dizziness. If part of your flight takes place in the evening, try to time naps during the night when you won’t be able to look out the window.

Step 6

Turn on the air vent above your seat and keep it on during the trip. Symptoms can worsen when you feel overheated.

Step 7

Take over-the-counter motion sickness medication before boarding the airplane. Prescription scopolamine patches can be helpful in controlling symptoms during long flights. Patches are placed over the ear and provide relief from symptoms for up to 72 hours.

Step 8

Drink water and juice to stay hydrated during the flight. Humidity in aircraft is usually less than 20 percent, according to the Aerospace Medical Association. In addition to drinking water and juice, avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, as consuming these beverages may cause more rapid loss of fluids from the body.

Step 9

Keep your head against the headrest while you fly if you are prone to motion sickness. Head movement can worsen symptoms.

Things You'll Need

  • Crackers

  • Ginger ale

  • Ginger candy or gum

  • Motion sickness medication

  • Scopolamine patch

Warning

Don’t drink alcohol during a flight or for 24 hours before flying. The combination of alcohol and lower oxygen levels at higher levels can cause dizziness.

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