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Flying with dizziness and vertigo

26 February 2010 3 Comments
Does the thought of flying leave you cold? Chris Martin-Bahr/Science Photo Library

Does the thought of flying leave you cold? Chris Martin-Bahr/Science Photo Library

Many people with vertigo and dizziness comment to me that flying fills them with dread. Flying is particularly bad for the vertigo and dizziness sufferer for several reasons.   But with a bit of knowledge you can minimize the negative effects.

The first reason flying is so bad is that you get low oxygen levels in the plane because of the lower cabin pressures. The brain is very susceptible to low oxygen, and the balance parts can be even more so.  If you already have a weak balance system, this can make it worse.

Secondly people often get dehydrated when flying, this also affects the balance areas. This can be compounded by drinking alcohol, which makes the dehydration worse, and it toxic to the brain as well.

Thirdly, in the plane you are subject to a large amount of constant movement for the length of the flight, and it is not a type of movement you are normally exposed to.  This input to the brain can fatigue it, particularly when you take into account the other factors mentioned above. It should (hopefully) recover in time. It may be a few hours for some, days or weeks for others and some may never fully get over it.

To minimise any problems, do regular slow deep breathing on the flight, drink lots of water and don’t drink alcohol. To help you recover, we are developing a home self-help programme for vertigo and dizziness.  We’ll post more details in the future.

So what have been your experiences in flying?  Have you found any things you can do to minimise the effects?  Let us know by using the comments section below.

3 Comments »

  • Michael Henderson said:

    thanks for the information as I will be taking a 4 hour flight shortly and was worried about it.

    Also was trying to register for your news letter All I get is a blank page .Have any info on how i can get the news letter

  • drmatt (author) said:

    Hi Michael, thanks for your comment. Sorry about the newsletter subscription, I am not sure what happened, but I have added you to the list this morning so you should start getting our newsletter soon.

  • Angela said:

    So glad to have found this article. I get vertigo symptoms every time I make a lengthy flight. I didn’t realize it was treatable. I’m going to look into this with my doctor.

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