9 Tips and Tricks to Prevent Motion Sickness on a Plane

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motion sickness on a plane

Motion sickness is a horrible feeling that can put a damper on your trip before it ever really begins. One in every three individuals experiences motion sickness in the car, and the symptoms are similar to motion sickness on a plane. Perhaps the simplest way to explain the cause is that it occurs when your senses get mixed signals between your eyes, muscles and inner ear (which controls your balance). Your brain gets confused, and that's when you begin to feel nauseated, have chills, experience dizziness, or sometimes even vomit.

This sensory overload is not comfortable, but there are simple hacks—like where to sit in flight or what to focus on—that will prevent or alleviate the condition. And surprisingly enough, sitting in first class is not necessarily where you want to be to avoid turbulence. Here are the preventative tips and tricks resident jet-setters follow and use below.

A Few Days Before: Try a Fear-Reducing Exercise

It's better to get ready a few days in advance, if possible. If you experience motion sickness on a plane, there's likely some fear associated with your trip (even if it's just the fear that you'll get sick). Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger suggests taking some time as the passenger in a car to notice how bumpy the ride is. "When you do that and become sensitized to what we've all become desensitized to, you realize that most car trips are much bumpier than your average plane ride," he told USA Today. This little exercise can help calm your nerves a few days ahead of time.

The Night Before: Eat Something Light and Bland

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, it's best if you have a light meal the night before so you don't upset your stomach. Also worth considering: ditching salty food to prevent dehydration in-flight and avoiding greasy foods that can cause a digestive flare-up.

The rule of thumb is that if a meal normally bothers your stomach, avoid it for a few days before your flight, just to be safe.

Check-in and Choose the Right Seat

This may mean ditching first class, but you want to sit above the wings, around rows 10 to 30. These spots are more stable, which means this position will reduce the feelings of turbulence, Dr. Quay Snyder, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, told Conde Nast Traveler. Even though the front of the plane (a.k.a. first class) is normally not too bumpy, you can experience motion sickness if the front wheels hit first when you land. Also, go for a window seat since it's advised that watching the horizon helps get your senses aligned by showing your body the motion it's going through.

Also plan to dress in layers so you can easily take them on or off as your body adjusts to the in-flight temperature.

motion sickness in flight


Crank the Air

When you're already feeling nauseated and sick, the last thing you want is to feel uncomfortably hot, too. Improve your direct airflow by turning up your personal fan and pointing it at yourself.

Sip a Ginger Ale

When beverage service starts, ask for ginger ale and sip on it slowly so you don't get too much fizz all at once. Research has shown that ginger actually helps to prevent motion sickness (so it's better if the soda has real ginger in it—some do). Whatever you do, this is not the time for cocktails or wine since alcohol is a diuretic (it dehydrates you), which can make your body have a harder time fighting off motion sickness.

Avoid Reading

Ditch your book club catch-up reading until you touch down. Reading is basically the exact opposite of looking out on the horizon, and it throws your body off more. It's adding more movement since your eyes are going from word to word, which can further confuse your senses.

Other Options

Discuss taking an over-the-counter drug for motion sickness with your doctor like Dramamine or Bonine. Remember that these pills can make you extremely drowsy, so it's best not to take them for the first time while you are traveling alone.

Article Sources
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  1. Hromatka BS, Tung JY, Kiefer AK, Do CB, Hinds DA, Eriksson N. Genetic Variants Associated with Motion Sickness Point to Roles for Inner Ear Development, Neurological Processes and Glucose Homeostasis. Hum Mol Genet. 2015;24(9):2700-8. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddv028

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Motion Sickness. July 11, 2016

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