The holiday decorations are up in the retail stores and nearby conversations are buzzing about holiday plans. I see smiles on the faces of my friends and family, anticipating the joy of the holiday season.
But for people like me living with occasional dizziness and vertigo, imbalance, and headaches, this busy time of year can be quite a challenge. All the bright flashing lights on holiday decorations, strong smells from traditional holiday candles and food, and traveling to see those we love can trigger and exacerbate my symptoms.
I have put together six tips to spark helpful ideas for people with dizziness and vertigo who are preparing to travel. The most important concept in preparing to travel is to consider what you may need to reduce your discomfort and respond to any flare-ups of your symptoms that you may experience while traveling, in order to reduce the responsibility and eventual burden of others to get involved.
First things first, pre-medicate as needed to reduce your discomfort. If you have additional medications for your symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, neck pain, headaches, sinus congestion or any other chronic condition that may flare up from traveling, I highly suggest that you plan ahead to ensure that you have all the possible medications that you might need in your carry-on bag.
Carrying your necessary medications, both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, and pre-medicating yourself as needed for the travel time helps to reduce the burden on your friends and family, if you start not feeling well.
Secondly, I recommend bringing along whatever pillow you need to support your neck properly. This includes BOTH for the travel time, such as a pillow for on the plane, AND for sleeping.
I have heard from many patients that “falling asleep” on the plane has resulted in worsening symptoms of dizziness, vertigo and headaches when they did not have a neck pillow to support the weight of their head.
Many patients who have a cervical contribution to their vertigo – or symptoms caused by the muscle spasms and misaligned bones in their neck – also require a special pillow for sleeping at night. I personally use a memory foam pillow designed for side-sleeping that has extra support under my neck to keep my spine aligned and relaxed while I am sleeping. And I often bring my sleeping pillow with me when I travel to reduce the chances that I will have a flare-up.
My third recommendation is to dress in layers. I have noticed that many people I meet with Vestibular health issues and symptoms are very sensitive to room temperature, and that can have a major impact on symptoms.
When patients experience a vertigo trigger, they may break into a sweat and feel over-heated due to the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.
Cooler temperatures tend to reduce symptoms of vertigo for those with Vestibular Health issues and may be beneficial, but may require extra layering of clothes to avoid shivering and body tension.
It is important to be able to add and remove layers of clothing as you travel on planes and to different geographical areas, in order to maintain your own personal comfortable temperature. So pack your carry-on with layers of clothes.
My fourth recommendation is to stay hydrated. Traveling can cause dehydration due to the dry air on planes and the exposure to new climate conditions.
I highly suggest for you to focus on drinking water while you travel, instead of getting sugary drinks, alcohol or caffeinated beverages, which can spike the blood sugar, dehydrate the body, heighten anxiety levels and cause general chaos of the endocrine system.
The amount of water recommended varies based on different experts whom I have read. If you feel thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. And if you have heart failure or kidney failure, your Medical Doctor will give you specific parameters for your fluid intake.
My fifth recommendation to minimize vertigo exacerbation from traveling is to use an essential oil on a scarf and gently place it over your nose and mouth while you are on the plane or in transit. You will need to find an essential oil that is recommended for you by a professional, or an oil that you like to smell.
Place a few drops on a scarf that can withstand a small oil stain. I like to wrap it around my neck and use it to gently cover my lower face and nose while in transit.
I think of this technique as “going on offense” for my olfactory sense, or my sense of smell. Since I have certain smells that cause vertigo for me, I select an essential oil that I find soothing and relaxing to use when I fly, like lavender, peppermint or spearmint.
Some people are too sensitive to use essential oils or have allergies to certain oils, so definitely use essential oils with caution. Stay tuned for more information in a future blog on essential oils – the topic of essential oils is too expansive to explain in full detail as part of this list of six helpful travel tips.
My sixth and final recommendation is to avoid making any other plans on the travel day. Some people can fly to New York in the morning for a business meeting, conduct the meeting and then fly home later that night on a commuter plane.
People with Vestibular Health issues need much more time to recover from flying and traveling than an average person.
In fact whenever I have to travel, it takes me about two weeks to recover from flying anywhere. But I have noticed that the more I prepare in advance to travel and consider my own unique health needs, the less of a burden I become to my companions and the more empowered I feel to take care of myself while I am on the road.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.