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Old 11-14-2003, 03:04 PM
mrbuddylee mrbuddylee is offline
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Why do I feel all weird on airplanes?

Well, I went on a business trip last week, and had to fly quite a bit. Now, here's what happened. As the plane was taking off, if I looked straight ahead, my head felt all dizzy and disoriented, if I looked out the window, my head would settle down a little bit. Same thing happened every time the plane banked or started descend. I've flown before and it happened then too, so I don't think it's an ear infection or anything.

I don't like plane rides anyways, and having my head go all freaky on me doesn't make them any more enjoyable. Any ideas what's wrong?

Also, I don't get seasick or carsick, and I never feel nauseous in the plane, just head weirdness. Any ideas? Is it Vertigo?
Old 11-14-2003, 05:21 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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This sounds to me like motion sickness. According to the Staff Report on the subject, motion sickness results when your eyes and your inner ear (which regulates equilibrium) are giving you different messages -- one says that you are moving, and the other says that you are standing still. In the plane, if you look straight ahead, your eyes are telling you that you are staying level, while your ears are telling you that you are moving either up or down. Since you don't get seasick or carsick, and seem to me most affected by ascents and descents, it sounds like your eyes and ears are able to coordinate forward motion, but get confused by vertical motion. Motion sickness doesn't necessarily cause nausea -- it can also cause dizziness and disorientation. Next time you fly, try one of the OTC motion sickness remedies like Bonine (my favorite) or Dramamine and see if that helps.
Old 11-14-2003, 08:12 PM
mrbuddylee mrbuddylee is offline
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awesome. Thank you very much for the info
Old 11-14-2003, 08:17 PM
Ringo Ringo is offline
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Sit by a window and look out. Just seeing what the horizon is doing (really, what you're doing relative to the horizon) can help a lot.
Old 11-14-2003, 10:10 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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It's the miscommunication between your eyes and the balance organs in your ears, with a little boost from the anatomical bits you sit on. Basically, humans are not evolved to fly, so our current hardware/software combo occassionally misfires. Everyone is affected to some degree, how much varies from person to person.

It's freaky because you're not used to it. You have the following chioces of how to deal with it:

1) Do nothing - if it's not making you sick or uncomfortably dizzy you don't have to do anything for this. Repeated exposure tends to make your mind/body more accustomed to this, so it bothers you less and it less noticable except in extreme situations.

2) Take drugs - personally, I'm not in favor of heavily medicating people without good reason (like nausea) but it's your body and what you do with it is your business.

3) Don't fly.

I wouldn't call what the OP has "motion sickness" - he's not sick. Nor would I call it "vertigo" - which to my mind is "so dizzy I don't know which way is up or down". Does sound like this person is uncomfortable, though.

In general, not turning your head around a lot help minimize this effect.
Old 11-14-2003, 10:31 PM
joshmaker joshmaker is offline
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Location: Denial, USA
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Motion sickness does not just mean nausea; it can also cause disorientation , fatigue, and sleepiness (one of the reasons why people fall asleep while driving). Recently a psychology professor who studies this sort of thing told me that motion sickness is the reason why rocking babies puts them to sleep.

Try getting a window seat or closing your eyes.

Also, this link suggests Ginger root as an alternative to medication:
Old 11-15-2003, 10:16 AM
mrbuddylee mrbuddylee is offline
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I usually do sit by a window, so that's good, we flew through a group of clouds though and it was worse because I couldn't see the horizon. I guess airplane pilot is out of the question.
I will read up on Ginger Root, I agree, I don't think medication is a good alternative. Thank you all for the information, it is very appreciated.
Old 11-15-2003, 10:42 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Re: Ginger root. Airlines typically have ginger ale available, but is there actually enough ginger (if any) in it to do any good?

In addition to looking outside, try turning the air vent on.
Old 11-15-2003, 04:03 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Originally posted by mrbuddylee
I usually do sit by a window, so that's good, we flew through a group of clouds though and it was worse because I couldn't see the horizon.
Yes, the lack of a visible horizon can trigger this sort of thing.

I guess airplane pilot is out of the question.
Nonsense. Those of us who are pilots experience these sensations, too, being human and all that. As I mentioned before, repeated exposure allows your mind and body to learn to cope with these new inputs. Not to mention learning tricks like looking out the window and strategic use of air vents and so forth.

I've yet to meet a pilot who has never experienced any symptoms of airsickness, and quite a few have experienced full-puke status. (I once almost threw up on a checkride examiner - not the best first impression) The main difference between pilots and non-pilots is that pilots are not permitted to make use of pharmaceutical aids like Dramamine - the drowsiness and slowed reaction times would not be a good mix with aviation. So we learn other coping strategies.

Other suggestions - don't eat too much, don't eat gas-producing foods, and also don't fly on a completely empty stomach. Some folks swear by ginger cookies, ginger ale, and other ginger products. Some down a few saltines prior to flight to keep something in the stomach. Drink sufficient non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages to prevent dehydration

Some over-the-counter decongestants, which I've heard people take to prevent ear problems, can intensify the dizziness/vertigo. Sudafed, for example, can cause dizziness/disorientation. While on the ground you have a nice, solid underpinning and a good horizon to help keep you oriented. In flight, visual orientation cues are often reduced, making you suddenly more aware that your vestibular canals (that's the inner-ear balance organ) are doing peculiar things.

Turning your head too quickly, bending over, or other abrupt re-orientations of the skull should be avoided. They can either instigate or make the condition worse.

Air sickness has these basic stages:

1) No symptoms
2) Gee, I feel funny
3) Oh, gawd, I'm gonna >gulp< puke
4) Oh, gawd, I'm gonna brrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwp!
5) I'm dying! uuuuuurps! I'm dying! uuuuuuuuurps!
6) Dry heaves
7) Oh, gawd, I'm not going to be allowed to die, kill me now
8) Utter and complete hell
Old 11-15-2003, 05:27 PM
pilot141 pilot141 is offline
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Oooohhh airsickness. I was lucky enough to only have a few bouts of nausea on my first flights in pilot training, but many others had flat-out terrible experiences. Here is a short discussion of airsickness by the Air Force. It's directed at pilot training students, so you can ignore the part that says "ask for control of the jet".

At the bottom it mentions a "Barany chair". This chair is a modified office chair that lets you spin, spin and spin some more. Poor student pilots who get airsick more than three times are sent to this chair every day after flying. They are spun until they puke, then spun again. Repeat the next day: fly, puke, spin, puke, spin. If it sounds miserable, it is. But it works for most people. After having your eyes covered and being spun continuously, going up and doing some aileron rolls in a T-37 doesn't seem so bad!

Hope you feel better next time.


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