Travel Medicine / Vaccination / Immunization Expert Forum
What are my Chances??
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Questions in the Travel Medicine forum are answered by Dr. Philip D Parks, affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health. Topics covered include disease prevention, finding a doctor abroad, food and water safety, illness and injury abroad, mosquito and tick protection, resources for travelers, traveling with children or pets, traveling with special needs, vaccinations and immunizations.

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What are my Chances??

     I am a 22 year old female and I have not been on a plane since 1995.  I am trying to get myself to get back on one, especially since I am planning a trip to FL from MA next month.  I have traveled it by car several times since the last time I flew without a problem, but I have developed this fear of becoming airsick from flying, even though I have never had a problem with that in the first place, and is now keeping me from wanting to get back onto a plane.  From what I remember of the last times I flew on a plane, I remember at least somewhat enjoying it. Since then, I have developed a general fear of vomiting that I believe has come about due to not vomiting at all throughout the last 15 years or so.  So, it's not like I am prone to motion sickness or anything.
     So, I guess my question is how likely or how common is it for people to become airsick in the first place (on a 3 hour flight)?  I don't believe anyone in my immediate family has ever had a problem with this, and I have managed several 24 hour car rides with no problems.  My gut feeling is that I would be ok, but I can't get over the fear of "what if."  Do you have any suggestions?  I had started thinking and reading about taking different medications before the flight itself to help with it, so I didn't know if that was something to look into.  (Dramamine...etc)  Am I overanalyzing this?  (as I usually do)  Please help, as I would like to overcome my fear of this, and get back to a semi-normal life when it comes to traveling.  Thank you.

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Dear Cherie,

It is fairly common for persons to experience symptoms of various types before and during air travel. Some people experience anxious feelings (anxiety) and may even feel their heart beating in their chest (palpitations). Others may experience nausea and
even vomit. But, do not worry too much because most of the time, people can overcome their fears of flying and can avoid the symptoms that you describe.

You might consider talking with your primary care medical provider about medication options and even cognitive behavorial therapy. Remember that medications like Dramamine may have side effects that may last longer than your 3 hour flight.

Other strategies that you might consider:
1. Make sure that you do not travel on a very full or very empty stomach. So, eat small frequent meals the day of your travel.
2. Ensure that you are well-hydrated the day of your travel.
3. Try to sit in the isle seat (easier access to the restroom and easier to get up and walk around during the flight).
4. Chew gum (this will help you clear your ears on ascent and descent).
5. Bring entertainment (Ipod, lap-computer) that will distract you.

I hope that this is helpful and best of luck on your trip.

~•~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
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