How to Avoid Motion Sickness on Airplanes
Where to sit, what to eat, and common mistakes to avoid.
For some, a flight is nothing more than being confined to one seat for an extended period of time. For others, that nightmare is only exemplified by the fact that they’re bound to feel nauseous and — if the motion sickness gets the best of them — may even actually throw up when the turbulence gets bad enough.
Air sickness is a common plague for many travelers, but luckily there are some things you can do to better equip yourself against this annoying side effect.
The first thing in battling air sickness is knowing what it is. This issue occurs when your inner ear detects movement that your eyes aren’t registering. This works in reverse, as well — if your eyes catch movement that your body doesn’t detect, say when you’re watching a particularly bumpy movie scene, you can become motion sick without even moving.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, this imbalance can cause a number of symptoms: cold sweats, pale skin, headaches, dizziness, nausea, increased salivation, fatigue, and vomiting. A 2015 study pulling data from genetics group 23andme in the Oxford Academic on Human Molecular Genetics shared that roughly one in three people suffer from car sickness, the causes of which are incredibly similar to air sickness.
It’s also been found that motion sickness is aggravated by anxiety and stress, meaning it doesn’t necessarily go away after your flight. But there are a few easy ways to avoid these side effects, or at least help kick them to the curb after they’ve already started.
Skip the Reading Session
While doctors recommend zoning in on a stable scene or horizon line when you’re experiencing motion sickness, reading isn’t going to improve your situation at all. What you’re doing is adding even more movement that could further mess with your inner equilibrium.
Pick Your Airplane Seat Carefully
The seats closer to the front of the airplane and directly on the plane wings are a little more stable than others, cutting down on the movement of your body during the flights. Just like on a bus, the further back you go, the bumpier it is.
Watch What You Eat Before Your Flight
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recommends eating a light meal the night before and day of flying. Avoid taking in a lot of calories, and skip salty foods. Salty foods only aggravate dehydration, which also happens on flights where the air is drier (pro tip: drink lots of water). Also skip any greasy foods that would regularly upset your stomach.
Use the Air Vents to Your Advantage
Direct airflow can make a world of difference when you’re experiencing motion sickness symptoms in a confined space, such as an airplane seat. Look to the air vent above your seat to provide a bit of relief in times of nausea and distress.
Way back in 1995, there was a study published in the Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine journal sharing that performing acupressure on yourself can lessen your motion sickness. So, what is acupressure? The act of stimulating various pressure points on your body to better circulate the flow of energy throughout the body.
For motion sickness, try using your thumb to push into your wrist about two inches down from the crease of your wrist. Hold it down for a few minutes with varying pressures to find out what works best for you.
Give ‘Verbal Placebos’ a Try
A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology shared the effects of telling naval cadets in the Israel Defense Forces that they were unlikely to have seasickness and that if they did, it was unlikely to affect their work performance at all. At the end of the five-day experiment, there was less reported seasickness.
What you can do: Have someone close to you reassure you that you won’t suffer from motion sickness and start training yourself to worry less about it. Pick a mantra, something like “I can control my motion sickness,” to recite during particularly trying moments mid-flight.
Opt for Ginger Ale
Ginger is great for your digestive system. Once that beverage cart hits the cabin, ask for a can of ginger ale to sip. Avoid taking large gulps — you don’t want any air bubbles to add to your stomach discomfort. Hard ginger candies can also do wonders for an upset stomach.
Pack Some Dramamine
If all else fails, they do make medication to help curb motion sickness. Be careful, though: Some of these medications can cause severe drowsiness. But hey, sleeping through your flight is a great alternative to spending it in the cramped airplane bathroom.