Are you looking for tips to help flying with vertigo?
I have patients travel to San Diego for vertigo treatment from all over the USA and foreign countries, so I frequently offer guidance on flying with vertigo. This is the mental checklist I run through, but not all of these tips might apply to your situation and will depend on how frequently and severely you get vertigo symptoms.
Is it Safe Flying with Vertigo?
First of all, determine if you are safe to fly. If you are actively vomiting or unable to sit up or walk on your own, you may need to cancel your trip and seek medical care at your current location.
Repeated vomiting can cause dehydration, which can be life threatening in extreme cases and may require intravenous (IV) fluids. I personally have gone to the emergency room over 20+ times in my life due to vomiting for hours to days from vertigo to get IV hydration.
If you are unable to sit up or walk on your own, then it may not be safe to try to fly and you may need to seek urgent medical care to get checked out instead of flying.
If you are not actively vomiting and you are able to sit up and walk on your own, you may decide that flying with vertigo is a reasonable option for you.
The first step in preparing to fly with vertigo is getting any medications that you need ready to go and pre-medicating yourself.
That list may include both prescription and over-the-counter medications for nausea, dizziness, or vertigo. Be sure to discuss with your doctor the medications that are necessary for you to control your symptoms based on your individual case.
Call Ahead for Wheelchair Service
If you are easily fatigued from the vertigo or have difficulty walking long distances, you may want to call ahead and request wheelchair service from your airline. Most airlines with escort passengers in wheelchairs to their gate and allow them to pre-board onto the plane before the other passengers.
If you request wheelchair service, be sure you are patient because sometimes you might be sitting around for hours.
Add Extra Points of Touch Contact
When you touch something or someone, you get sensory information that can help you feel more stable and balanced when you have vertigo.
If you feel the vertigo when you are sitting, focus on the points of contact between your legs and back with the chair. Put your hands on the armrests to increase the points of contact. Those extra points of touch contact will help you feel more stable.
You can use your hands to hold onto the seats while you walk on the plane or hold onto a travel companion walking through the airport to give you an extra sense of balance.
You can also spread your feet wider while you stand and walk to feel more balanced.
Bring an Assistive Device
Canes and walkers work the same way, by giving you more balance through your hands. Bring any assistive device that you might need like a walker or a cane on the flight to stabilize yourself. Make sure you put a luggage tag on your cane or walker, in case it gets lost.
You can store your assistive device in the overhead bin, or the airline may allow you to check it at the gate right before you board the plane. If you check your cane or walker at the gate, the airline attendants will likely bring it back to you as soon as you get off the plane.
So make sure that you give yourself plenty of time, so you can avoid rushing around and keep yourself calm.
You may also want to get a chamomile tea or some other non-caffeinated beverage while you are waiting in the airport to help yourself relax.
Try to keep your breathing smooth and steady because shallow, rapid breathing can over-stimulate your nervous system and make you feel worse.
Stay Upright and Move Your Head as Little as Possible
Depending on the cause of your vertigo symptoms, lying down and moving your head around may make you feel worse. So it is usually best to avoid lying down or moving around a lot in the airport while you are waiting around.
This means you may have to ask someone to help you with your luggage, so you can avoid repeatedly bending over to pick it up off the floor. If you have to pick up your own bags off the floor, consider kneeling down or squatting down to pick them up instead of bending forward at your hips so your head stays in the upright position.
You may want to invest in a higher quality neck pillow to hold your head upright if you fall asleep while you are flying.
Stare at a Vertical Line or Close your Eyes
Depending on the cause of vertigo, you may feel better if you stare at a vertical line or you may feel better if you close your eyes. You have to figure that out on your own. Reading and looking at a computer screen often make vertigo feel worse, so you may need to avoid those activities if you are flying with vertigo.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.