If you suffer from vertigo, it can certainly be an uncomfortable experience, that could potentially become worse when flying.
However, flying with vertigo is still possible, though you will want to take steps to minimize discomfort during the flight.
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How to Fly With Vertigo
- Bring Your Medication: If you’ve been prescribed drugs to provide relief from vertigo, make sure you bring them on-board. If you haven’t been prescribed these drugs, make sure you visit your doctor to obtain them before you fly.
- Bring water pills: If you suffer from Meniere’s disease, make sure that you bring water pills on the plane.
- Take anti-anxiety medication: Even people who don’t suffer from vertigo get anxious about flying, and take anti-anxiety medication before their flight. But if you have vertigo, it’s even more important that you take medication like diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) before your flight.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco: Use of these substances can all make vertigo worse, so make sure you avoid them on the days leading up to your flight, as well as on the day of the flight itself.
- Use an OTC antihistamine: An over-the-counter antihistamine, such as meclizine or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), can help if your vertigo also involves nausea.
- Stay hydrated: Due to the changes in air pressure and humidity on a plane, it’s easier to become dehydrated, so make sure that you bring a water bottle on the plane and drink lots of water.
- Be prepared for the drowsiness: Effective medications for vertigo will often cause drowsiness, so make sure that you are prepared for this, such as having transport pre-arranged once you land.
- Add points of touch contact: If you have vertigo, you may have realized that touching something or someone can help, as it gives you sensory information that can result in a feeling of stability and balance. So focus on holding the seat or the feel of the contact of the seat on your body.
- Move your head as little as possible: Staying upright and moving your head as little as possible can help reduce vertigo symptoms when they strike.
- Travel short-haul: If it’s your first time flying with vertigo, it’s better to take a short-haul flight, as it’s hard to predict what will happen in the air if you’ve never flown with vertigo before.
Does Flying Make Vertigo Worse?
As the most common cause of vertigo involves the inner ear (peripheral vertigo), which is affected during flying, there’s a good possibility that vertigo symptoms will become worse when you’re in the air.
Additionally, as vertigo can become worse with sensory overload, traveling within the airport, and hearing overhead announcements at the airport and on the plane can worsen symptoms.
Vertigo May Last a Short or Long Time
It can be hard to estimate how long vertigo will last at the airport, on the plane, and after your flight, as everyone will respond differently.
A vertigo attack can last from a few seconds to hours, to even days or months if you have severe vertigo.
Generally, while episodes of peripheral vertigo can pass quickly, central vertigo that is caused by a disease or injury to the brain can last for much longer periods of time, and are more intense.
Can You Become a Pilot With Vertigo?
If you have vertigo, it’s still possible to become a pilot, though the likelihood is reduced.
In most instances, a further neurological evaluation is required to determine whether an aspiring pilot can qualify for a medical certificate necessary for flying or not.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).