Can you go flying with Vertigo?
Many people ask me if they can go flying with vertigo. I cannot make that decision for you but I can share tips to get through the airport more comfortably. I have published three past blogs with helpful tips for flying with vertigo, travel tips for people with dizziness and vertigo, and strategies for getting through the airport.
In this blog, I share additional insights and information about managing dizziness, vertigo, and nausea in the airport due to sensory overload. I discovered these strategies by traveling with dizziness, vertigo and nausea to visit my family last month.
Sensory Overload in the Airport
Sensory overload can occur when your brain is receiving too much new input at once, such as loud music with a spinning disco ball. Overloading your senses with too much stimuli can exacerbate dizziness, vertigo, and nausea.
These feelings will become worse if the experience also triggers anxiety.
You may have to ride on elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. These moving platforms change the way the vestibular system is being stimulated, may cause a change in visual input or create a conflict between visual and vestibular input. That is why the experience may induce or increase existing discomfort.
There are a lot of people, smells, and sounds that are unfamiliar that can cause sensory overload.
The best way I have learned to deal with this, when flying with vertigo, is to try to shut out as much as possible and use strategies to manage what I cannot avoid.
Visually Complex Environment
The airport is a chaotic hustle and bustle environment, which creates “visual complex” surroundings similar to the supermarket. People are walking around in all different directions at different speeds, with almost no uniformity.
Sometimes I wear my polarized sunglasses in the airport if I am feeling visually triggered, to cut down on glare from the windows and tile floors.
Other strategies that I use are to keep my eyes straight ahead and avoid swiveling my head all around while I am walking through a busy airport.
Once I get to a seat at my departure gate, I try to keep my eyes focused on something that is directly on my lap.
I may even softly close my eyes to block out all the movement and colors in my peripheral vision.
An eye mask may be beneficial once you are on the plane. I do not recommend it for the airport since it increases the risk of someone stealing your belongings.
Once you are on the plane, try to position yourself so that you cannot see any other passenger’s television screen in your peripheral vision.
Reducing visual input when flying with vertigo is especially important if you are experiencing migraine-associated dizziness, vertigo, or nausea while traveling.
Constant Overhead Announcements
Inside an airport, you simply cannot avoid being constantly bombarded with overhead announcements. For some people with dizziness, vertigo, or sensory overload, the overhead announcements may exacerbate their discomfort.
These loud overhead announcements continue, although to a lesser extent, on the plane.
Some strategies that might help when flying with vertigo include wearing ear plugs or ear muffs to muffle the intensity of the sound. You an also use headphones to listen to soft music, ocean waves, or other relaxing audio recordings like nature sounds while you are traveling.
Reducing auditory input is especially helpful for reducing migraine-associated vertigo while traveling.
Travel Causes Dehydration
Dehydration is a common result of traveling. Dehydration can result in two specific problems related to dizziness and vertigo.
Sometimes dehydration can trigger an onset of BPPV vertigo. This is usually first felt while lying down or rolling over in bed, but can also cause imbalance while standing.
Dehydration can also cause orthostatic hypotension. This is when blood pressure drops with standing up and causes lightheadedness.
In order to minimize dehydration, I recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol in airport bars and on the plane. Alcohol can cause or worsen symptoms of dizziness and vertigo, and may interact with medications.
Low Blood Sugar Causes Dizziness
I also suggest that you pack healthy snacks to avoid low blood sugar when flying with vertigo.
On the Plane
Opt for a soft cervical collar neck brace instead of a Travel pillow for more support. You can purchase a soft cervical collar at most walk-in pharmacies.
During the flight, you may feel triggered by changes in cabin pressure, strong smells of body odor or perfume of neighbors, and turbulence. Any of these sensory stimuli could make you feel more dizzy, or they may not bother you at all.
Those sensory inputs may be especially magnified and unpleasant if you have a vestibular migraine.
For changes in cabin pressure, you can try to make sure to pop your ears by chewing candy or gum. Chewing and swallowing will help your Eustachian tube gape open to regulate the air pressure in your middle ear.
You can cover your nose with a scarf or handkerchief if your neighbor has on strong cologne or bad breath that is making you feel nauseous.
You can brace yourself with your arms on the armrests, and knees resting against the seat in front of you if you feel like you are losing your balance during any turbulence.
The most important thing is to stay calm so you do not escalate any true dizziness, vertigo, or nausea. Stress makes those uncomfortable symptoms feel worse and last longer than they would if you remain calm.
I was able to remain calm while I was traveling by focusing on what I wanted to share with you about the experience.
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.
Hi Dr. Bell,
I am so grateful that I discovered your website. I am learning a lot about BPPV . I have been diagnosed with left lateral canalithiasis by my PT (specializing in vestibular rehab). I have been going to her for more than a month now. it’s a slow process, still experiencing dizziness, visual problems, and lately lightheadedness,. I guess because I had the condition 3 weeks before finally finding the appropriate health care professional.
As much as possible, I do not want to take Gravol or betahistine (which my family doctor prescribed). My PT advised that medication does not really help with BPPV.
I read about Reliefband for motion sickness. I wonder if this will also help ease my dizziness and lightheadedness. It’s a struggle to go to work and have these symptoms and if I can get away with it, I do not want to take any medication.
Best regards from Canada,
I am sorry for what you are going through but I am happy you have found a skilled Vestibular Physio in Canada to help you! I am also glad that my website is a helpful resource for you.
Studies have reported that BPPV resolves with proper treatment in 1-2 sessions about 85-90% of the time. Of course, that leaves 10-15% of BPPV cases that are more stubborn, requiring more treatments to resolve.
I definitely suggest that you advocate for a comprehensive root cause analysis to account for every symptom that you have.
Sometimes BPPV is accurately diagnosed, but is only a piece of a more complex puzzle.
I have written this blog, this blog, and this blog about medications for dizziness and vertigo. You might find that information helpful.
The band you are mentioning may or may not work for you. Everyone is different. What works for some people does not necessarily work for every one.
Either the band or the medications, whichever you use, will only “mask the symptoms” and allow you to function temporarily. That is a decision to discuss with your current healthcare team.
The most important step in recovery is to determine the root cause of your problem and work to resolve it.
I have treated a number of Canadians who were happy to make the trip to San Diego! You are always welcome to come down here if you would like my help in person.
Kim Bell, DPT
Thank you for these tips.
Vertigo has been with me for the past 3 months. I take “Serc” twice a day and it does help enough that I can continue working.
I am planning a trip in the near future and am nervous about feeling dizzy while away from home.
I feel for you because I also have the same problem. It’s been with me for 4 years.
Have you been on a plane as yet?
Vertigo has been with me for the past 3 years. I haven’t found the root cause even if I’ve seen several doctors and specialists. I would rather die than having another vertigo ahead. I hope I can find the root cause one day.
I am sorry to hear about this!
I suggest you find a local vertigo doctor or vestibular physical therapist to have an evaluation.
You can search for a local provider using this blog.
I hope you find answers and get relief soon!
I hope your vertigo is long gone now. But I wanted to share my experience about flying with vertigo.
I was diagnosed with bppv about six years ago. Had two sessions but didn’t help.
So I just tried to live with it like sleeping on my right side. Have two pillows instead of one.
I did feel dizzy few times a day but it was nothing like the whole room spinning around when I first had my vertigo.
I flew 13 hours straight on an international flight. The flight didn’t bother me on both ways. That was 2018.
Then my vertigo was completely gone after 2020.
I started joining taekwondo class with my daughter. I was really happy.
Then we went on a vacation on December 2022 to Caribbean.
On the way there I was ok but I did think the plane was really loud. I got stuffed ears when the plane starting to go off.
But that was it. I didn’t feel anything after that.
Then on the way back, it was four hours flight to Dallas. I was really dizzy I felt like I was going to pass out any minute after half way to Dallas.
My husband told me to try to breathe. So I closed my eyes. Covered my ears with my fingers the whole time.
I was still dizzy after got off plane but was able to walk. I laid in my bed for two days hoping to get better after we got home.
Then third day I was better so I thought I would take my daughter to the movie.
Bad decision. I got dizzy again after the 3d movie.
It’s been two weeks now. Still have my vertigo.
Sometimes I feel good but most of the time I am dizzy. Not too bad but just not comfortable.
I think smaller airplanes are louder and bumper and we had some turbulence that made my vertigo back.
I am going to see my doctor for this again. Hopefully I will feel better soon.
Help….. Im really distressed as my symptoms just are so debilitating. I have no proper diagnosis yet even after a year of Symptons. Light-headedness, wobbly sensations and in worst case scenarios the ground feels like it is moving like a trampoline especially after driving. No spinning just out of sync feeling, a lot of discomfort and now I feel as if I am destined to stay housebound. I’m frantic at this thought. When I am outdoors the Symptons are much less. Shopping centres and big stores are a night ere. Help. I’m in Northern Ireland
I am sorry to hear of your distress!
People with symptoms like yours can still improve with Vestibular Physical Therapy, even without a proper diagnosis.
You can use this blog to try to find a provider in your area.
This blog has some home remedies that may help.
I hope you find answers and relief soon!
Kim Bell, DPT
I am also feeling all your symptoms. I was diagnosed with cervocogenic dizziness stemming from the neck. Problems with the neck can cause vertigo and we wouldn’t think it was the neck.
I found out that the neck, eyes, and ears are all connected with the vestibular system, and have to work well together. I didn’t know any of this before my symptoms. I’m still experiencing symptoms but I’m in vestibular physical therapy now.
I have vertigo and I was wondering if you have any suggestions I’m getting ready to fly from St. Louis to Madison Wisconsin and I had totally forgot about having it I haven’t had no symptoms lately and now I’m worried that I’m gonna end up sick and Curled up in a ball like I was the first time it happened My daughter had to call the ambulance the first time it happened because I couldn’t move and now it just comes back sometimes but I can tell before my feet hit the ground in the morning when I get out of bed if I’m gonna have a bad day and now I’m going to fly any suggestions
Yikes! Curled up in a ball and then riding in an ambulance sounds like a bad day.
This blog talks about a common cause of vertigo that people often feel before their feet hit the ground in the morning.
You can find a provider who treats that common type of vertigo using this blog.
I have four total blogs on traveling with dizziness and vertigo. I am glad you found this one!
Here are the links for the other three blogs I wrote to share my travel tips: Article 2 Article 3 Article 4
I hope that information is helpful!
Kim Bell, DPT
Never had this before until last weekend and had no idea what I had or what was wrong with me. I couldn’t get up at all because room was spinning so badly and was so nauseated. I finally had to crawl to the bathroom and then down the hall to kitchen. End result was ambulance to ER. Was really scared. That determination was a bad reaction to a new med and they sent me home. Two days later was still sick and dizzy and no better. So back to ER in ambulance and then was admitted. After several tests and several drs was determined vertigo. Did first therapy this morning. Nothing I ever want to experience again.
Hi Dr. Bell,
I’m happy I ran across your website, there is a lot of helpful information here. I have had vertigo for 4 years now with no real diagnosis but my symptoms align most with BPPV. The only thing is when I do the tests for the BPPV diagnosis it doesn’t indicate I have BPPV. The strange thing is every time I get a vertigo attack I stop it by using the Epley maneuver. That is why I feel like I most likely have BPPV. Does that sound like something that would be possible in your opinion?
BPPV is a unique condition in that it responds to treatment very quickly, if properly assessed and treated.
You may be interested in this blog and this blog, which may help to answer your question.
This blog may also be helpful.
I am glad that you found relief, most importantly!
Kim Bell, DPT
I have been diagnosed by a neurologist with vestibular issues and nystagmus after… a fall in the yard. I’m in therapy for these and was improving. However, I went on a trip to the Caribbean and, after flying, being in the ocean and on a boat, my symptoms worsened. This was described by my neurologist as a “sensory mismatch”. What are your thoughts on this?
My thoughts are that traveling by plane or boat can exacerbate vestibular issues, so it does not surprise me that you feel worse after your trip.
I would consider that a “setback” in your recovery. However, sometimes you just have to live your life.
My suggestion is to return to the vestibular therapy and keep at it, since it has helped you improve before. If you do have a sensory mismatch, then vestibular therapy can help you get back on track.
I am glad you were able to enjoy the Caribbean! Hopefully the mental imagery and relaxation you experienced can keep you calm and peaceful as you work through your vestibular rehabilitation.
I have written this article and this article on reasons why vestibular therapy does not work, so you may want to check those out and avoid those common pitfalls.
Kim Bell, DPT
Thank you, Kim. I’m back in vision/brain therapy and have seen some slow improvement. I also have chronic Lyme and mast cell activation. So there are a lot of things affecting my neurological system and my eyes.
Hi, I was diagnosed with BPPV back in June 2021 did 2 treatments of Physio vestibular and everything stopped no more dizziness etc. Now I am going on a trip taking the plane on October 25 and wanted to know will BPPV come back with the pressure of plane or is it really just with the movement of head that BPPV comes back. Thank you!
That is a great question! Traveling is a common cause of BPPV recurrence for many of my patients.
You can learn more at this blog: BPPV Symptoms
I think one key point here is that there is a difference between causes of a new onset or recurrence of BPPV, which is the actual dislodging of new crystals.
Versus movements or positional triggers that can cause a spin when you have loose crystals.
Traveling can cause new crystals to come loose for some vestibular patients, due to the pressure changes.
Whereas, movement of the head can trigger vertigo symptoms in someone who has crystals loose.
This blog has Home Remedies that may help.
This blog has directories to find a provider in your local area. I suggest finding a vestibular physical therapist.
Kim Bell, DPT
Hi!! I’ve vertigo for 26 years but of course I go in-and-out of acute phases. I also have MS, some ear pain, and hearing loss. Currently in an acute phase. I’ve had every test on the planet been to several topped Otolaryngologists and the eplymaneuver does not seem to do anything.(not BPPV). Although doing it currently the vestibular therapy seems to make it more chronic than help me.. I do have to fly once in a while and I was surprised you didn’t suggest a decongestant wondering if you could shed any light on what I’ve been going through now for 5 weeks; 26 years. No diagnosis ever.
Thank you for sharing this comment.
I believe I suggested having medications for whatever symptoms you have related to dizziness and vertigo.
For some people, certainly a decongestant is appropriate.
Other people may have headaches, anxiety, etc, so I suggest for each person to bring whatever medications they need to address their individual symptoms when they travel.
If you are still searching for the root cause of your symptoms, I suggest you organize the description of your experience as I list in this blog.
I also share some common triggers in this blog, that you may want to include in your summary.
That will help your current and future healthcare providers with their case analysis.
The key is to document the onset, trigger, and duration of any dizzy spells or vertigo attacks. Then most specialty healthcare providers will have the information needed to assign a proper diagnosis.
I wish you all the best!
Kim Bell, DPT
I was diagnosed with bppv after a head injury
I had now done the epley manoeuvre and she said I am fine to fly as i have no other symptoms like sensory etc.
Do you think it’s okay too?
I am just very unsure still..
She said technically the epley should have helped now. I have had it done only today and still feel like my brain is swimming…
Once the Epley maneuver (or other BPPV treatment maneuver) is successful, then the BPPV is considered “resolved.”
This blog discusses post treatment precautions.
If your healthcare provider thinks you are ok to travel, then that is the advice you should take since he or she has evaluated you in person.
It is common to feel your brain is swimming for a day or two, even after a successful treatment of vestibular physical therapy.
However, BPPV on both the right and left sides is common after a head injury.
So you should go back to get re-checked for BPPV again by that same healthcare provider, if you don’t feel better 12-48 hours after the treatment.
You also need to get a good sleep after each BPPV treatment to recover properly.
i was diagnosed with BPPV just over 2 years ago by a specialist but initially the doctor told me it was Labyrinthitis as i had ringing and hearing loss. The hearing came back but the affected ear has left me with a strange whooshing noise which I find difficult to deal with at times. It took me a few weeks to get my balance back but id say that Ive never fully recovered from this . Its like i have relapses. I recently got back from a 15 hour flight three weeks ago and Im all over the place. i feel totally out of sync and disorientated not to mention exhaustion. When i walk I struggle as I think Im about to fall . I have slight pain in my ears which comes and goes in sharp bursts. This was the first time I’ve taken a flight since I had the issue 2 years ago and the way I feel Im not sure i could go through with it again . Even when I was on holiday i struggled with my balance which made me in a constant anxious state . Also the jet lag didn’t help at all as its the worst I’ve ever experienced. Do you think its been the flight that has triggered this.? Ive not had the spinning sensation like I did when I was ill with the Labs/BPPV but I feel really off balance , its like a vertigo attack is about to hit me . I feel upset i may never get to travel on a plane again
Flying is a common trigger for BPPV and vestibular migraines. There are other conditions besides BPPV and migraines that can cause discomfort on planes, so it is best to consult with a doctor for an evaluation.
I have three other articles with travel tips, one on this website and two articles on BetterBalanceInLife.com here and here.
People with vertigo can travel, but we have to take extra steps and implement specific strategies before, during, and after traveling to get through it and recover.
Since this is such an important topic, I cover travel tips in my upcoming book, which is currently in the editing phase. Please join my mailing list if you want to be notified when my book comes out.
For now, you may want to find a vertigo doctor in your area using this article.
I have post concussive symptoms, including vertigo. Head trauma happened 4 days ago. Scheduled to fly in 2 days. Thank you so much for your suggestions in the airport and on plane.
I am not inclined to take the flight as injury is new. Although I live with vertigo as a result of a damaged cervical spine, this feels different. May need more time to recover before I fly.
I am glad I found your blog because I was a bit concerned about flying with vertigo. I have had two or three cases that I managed by using the Epley maneuver.
However, about 3 weeks ago I experienced a significant vertigo event one night. I managed through that and had no further major spinning or dizzy moments.
Yet, still, when I get up in the morning I still feel a bit wobbly but return to pretty much normal later in the day but with sort of a heavy-headed feeling.
Yes still doing Epley 4 – 5 times a day.
I’ll be seeing my primary physician in a couple of days to investigate whether, or not, there is something else going on in the inner ear.
I did have a bad cold a few weeks ago so wondering if there is a lingering problem.
In the meantime just being watchful while packing for week-long trip that involves flight.