Stories by Louis Ibah
Air sickness, often called flight sickness, can be a particularly distressing form of motion sickness simply because once you’re up in the air, there’s no way out! In fact, the possibility of asking the pilot to bring the aircraft to a halt for you to seek immediate medical attention is completely ruled out, just as the possibility of finding some reprieve in a comfortable bed or couch. Unless you’re lucky enough to be among the few traveling first or business class, you are likely to be among the lot cramped for space on the economy class where the tendency to be air sick is higher.
Experts link motion or air sickness to disturbances of the inner ear that is caused by the speed or from turbulence in an airplane. According to experts, airsickness is caused by conflicting signals your senses tell your brain. Your eyes adjust to the lack of movement around you and send a message to your brain that you are sitting still. Your inner ear, however, senses the actual movement. The conflicting signals result in the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, and a general sense of feeling unwell. Severe airsickness may cause a person to become completely incapacitated.
Experts say these symptoms arise from the inner ear (labyrinth) due to changes in a person’s sense of balance and equilibrium.
Anyone can develop motion sickness, but people vary in their sensitivity to motion, but it most commonly affects children from 2 to 12 years old, pregnant women, and people who are prone to migraines.
What’s more, during take off, landing and any periods of turbulence you won’t even have access to the restroom. Fortunately, smoking – a major air sickness trigger – is no longer permitted on most flights. Because of the rise in the number of complaints by passengers, and in order not to scare away those passengers from further journeys, airlines are now mandated to make available air sickness bags that can be helpful to the affected passengers.
What to do
There are plenty of things that air travelers most often affected by air sickness can do to minimize their discomfort and enjoy their flight.
Preparing for your flight
First of all, if you are prone to air sickness, make sure that you are well hydrated before the flight. It is a good idea to increase the amount of water you are drinking for 24-48 hours before your trip. Suck a hard candy / boiled sweet as the actions of sucking and chewing keep your saliva production going. This is a good thing as saliva works to neutralize stomach acid and therefore helps to guard against nausea and vomiting.
When you check in for your flight, explain that you are prone to air sickness and ask for a seat towards the front edge of the wing – the most stable part of the plane. Most check-in staff will be sympathetic and do their best to help. If they are not able to assign you a seat in this area, it’s worth explaining the situation to a cabin crew when you board.
They may be able to persuade someone to switch seats with you. After all, it’s in everyone’s interests that you aren’t ill! Bulkhead seats are also a good choice as they have much more space and leg room in which to relax.
The rear of the plane has the bumpiest ride and is by far the worst area for those with a tendency to air sickness. Unfortunately, if you are traveling with small children, this is often exactly where you’ll be seated. Again, inform check-in staff that you have a tendency to air sickness and request a seat further forward.
Being well hydrated is particularly important when flying. Once on board, the single most important thing is to take regular sips of water if you don’t want to get air-sick. Carbonated drinks, such as ginger ale, or tonic water is better, but not alcohol. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no ban on taking liquids onto planes.
The ban is on taking liquids from landside to airside. What this means is that it is quite possible to travel with a bottle or flask in your carry-on luggage – only that current regulations simply require it to be empty when you pass through security so the content is not toxic. You can fill it right up again as soon as you done with the screening and inside the airside. Once you are through security there are no restrictions on obtaining liquids and carrying them onto the plane.You can purchase a bottle of water in the boarding area. That’s what most passengers don’t know. So make sure to pack a water bottle or flask in your hand luggage.
Ventilation is also really important. The air on planes can be awful, but most seats will at least have a small ventilation nozzle above them. Turn it to direct the air flow towards your face. Be careful though, as falling asleep with the air directed at your neck may result in cramp, so be sure to pull your blanket high, or wear something around your neck.Wear loose comfortable clothes. Anything constricting, especially around the throat or waist, is sure to make you feel worse.
Eating on board
While few people really enjoy airline meals, they can be a source of absolute torment for those prone to air sickness! It’s not so much the food itself (which of course can be refused, or simply left on the tray), but the smell. And it could be worse for passengers on an international flight than can last more than five hours with several hundred meals being served pretty much at the same time. It is therefore better to abstain from any food whose smell and scent can cause a feeling of nausea and lead to vomiting. Experts suggest eating a small portion of high protein foods, such as meat, fish, beans, eggs or a peanut butter sandwich instead.
Get plenty of rest
Being well rested as you begin your flight can help your body to maintain a more relaxed state. It is also important to stay warm. Planes often have that peculiar combination of being cool and stuffy, so make use of your blanket (be sure to ask for one if it hasn’t been provided – all airlines carry them) to at least cover your legs.
Use the footrest (if available), settle back in your seat with your head against the headrest and relax. Recline your seat when permitted and look either at a fixed point within the cabin, or – if you have a window seat – at the sky with your head tilted lightly back. Craning your neck to look down at the ground is not a good idea.