mnmlist: How to Prevent Motion Sickness When Flying

I sat in the back seat of a maroon 1986 Dodge Caravan, complete with the classic fake wood panels. It was a six-hour road trip from Ann Arbor to Louisville, and I found myself entertained by my Nintendo Gameboy. No, not the color one, the original black and white one. It took about an hour or so of Metroid until I looked up and projectile vomited into the unoccupied middle seats. Somewhere around Dayton, Ohio, in fact.

“You know, you never used to like the baby swing we’d put you in,” my Dad liked to remind me. That trip down south marked the beginning of an exciting saga of childhood motion sickness. The time coming home from summer camp after a week of binge eating various chocolate snacks and treats. The time in Roanoke, S. VA when I got on that silly swing ride at a carnival — the one where the seats hang from long chains and they spin you around in circles for a while — that was a bad idea. Let’s just say, I eventually grew weary of anything that spun or shook aggressively.

These days, things have gotten better. I know to look out the front window and I’m much more in tune with when I’m starting to feel sick. I’m usually able to take action before it becomes a real problem.

Except on planes.

It’s a little hard to pull a plane off the next exit to get some fresh air — flight attendants tend to frown upon opening a window as well.

The only hiccup in that fact is that I love to travel. In 2015 I flew to twelve different places, some international. I felt pretty sick on at least three of those flights, but two of them were about to land (both times coming into or out of Chicago… ugh) so I was saved. That leaves just one, which I did get sick on, I happened to be using my laptop and not paying attention to the bumps in the air on the way to Boston. I let it go too long, and well, oops. It pretty much ruins my life until I sleep through a full night and start over the next day.

What I can say, is that I have come up with a relative solution to preventing air sickness 99% of the time. It just takes some effort and preparation.

Tools

  1. Dramamine. Not the non-drowsy wimpy stuff. This stuff.
  2. Ginger candy. Something like this will do.
  3. Sea-bands. Yep, we’re going all in here. We tackle this problem from all sides.
  4. Headphones. Anything that is an IEM or Noise Cancelling will do. IEM’s fit snuggly in your ears and block sound. Noise cancelling headphones simply play reverse sound waves into your ears to make outside noises quieter.

Instructions

  1. Do you have to take a train or something bumpy that might start a horrible death-spiral of motion sickness? If so, take half a dramamine tablet at least 30 minutes before you do that. I noticed a trend that I was more likely to get sick LEAVING my home airport than COMING BACK. I think this was due to the light rail transit that we regularly took to the airport. So, if you have to do that, take half a dramamine before.
  2. Drink enough water that you stay hydrated but not too much that you’re going to have to pee every 20 minutes on the plane. Domestic flights generally board about 30 minutes before departure, so take a whole dramamine about one hour before the posted flight time. Even if you took half of one before arriving at the airport, you should be fine. Then again, I’m a six-foot two, two hundred twenty pound man, and not a doctor. It needs about 60 minutes to get into your system before the flight.
  3. Once seated, put on your Sea-bands according to instructions. The bump on the band needs to be centered over the inside of your wrist about two inches down from your palm. There is a diagram in the package. Use it. (I feel like Morpheus saying that).
  4. When the hatch has been secured (the door closes) and the flight attendants start announcing things, pop a ginger candy and just let it dissolve in your mouth. I recommend randomly eating them for the remainder of your flight. Maybe one per hour or so depending on the length.
  5. Put on the headphones and listen to whatever you want — usually relaxing music or an entertaining podcast. Half the time getting panicked and worked up over thinking that you’re going to get sick will actually make it much worse. Listen to some chill music or low key podcasting.
  6. Sleep. You should feel the dramamine kicking in about now. The 100% absolute best thing you can do to prevent motion sickness is sleep. The dramamine will help, about 20-30 minutes into the flight you should feel very… very.. sleepy.
  7. Don’t drink carbonated beverages when the nice flight attendant offers. Bubbly drinks trick your brain and make everything worse, even ginger ale. That’s why you brought the ginger candy, duh. Drink water, apple juice, tomato juice, anything flat. No booze, please.

Noteables

  1. Don’t use  laptop or read unless you’re completely confident that there will not be turbulence or other issues that could upset your system. Make sure to pay attention — if there are bumps in the air, just look up and reset while they happen then go back to your work or whatever.
  2. Often the most turbulent/disruptive parts of the flight are during climbing and descending. Make sure that you have cool air blowing out of the vent from the ceiling (that little round air cannon thing). Don’t read or do anything stupid during these periods. Usually turbulence chills out after 20,000 feet or so.
  3. I do not find that looking out the window during turbulence helps AT ALL. In fact, times that I’ve been feeling sick have gotten MUCH WORSE when I looked out the window and the plane would start to bank. That’ll throw your inner ear for a loop. I find that generally looking straight forward into the cabin and allowing myself to bounce with the plane is the best I can do.
  4. Relax. As I mentioned earlier, the tension caused by thinking you’re going to get sick is often just makes things worse. Chill out, everything will be fine.

That is all. If you have ideas or comments that you would like to add, please leave a comment and I’ll amend the post.

Happy flying.