Symptom: Colds

Airplanes are deep cleaned MONTHLY

Symptom: Airplane Headache

Infographic of why we get headaches on airplanes

Why we get headaches on planes

Researchers at the Bnai Zion Medical Center estimate that more than 100 million people around the world suffer from flight-associated headaches annually.

Airplane headaches are likely due to several factors including the shape of your sinuses, the speed of the aircraft, cabin pressure and the maximum altitude reached.

Over half of the participants in one study suffered from headaches in other settings. Perhaps being generally headache prone shares the same pain activation pathways linked with airplane headaches.

In another study on headaches at high altitude, younger people were more prone to getting headaches. They theorized that the loss of brain cells as we age might accommodate mild brain swelling better.

Finally, poor air quality and quantity contribute to airplane headaches. Planes frequently circulate 5-10% less oxygen than you breathe at sea level, and the air is far dryer, further dehydrating flyers.

Symptom: Motion Sickness

Photo of Waves representing airplane motion sickness

Why we get nauseous on planes

Anytime your body moves in a way that’s different from what your eyes see, you can get motion sickness. Your inner ear, or vestibular system, helps guide movement and balance. This system senses motion, such as when you’re on a plane, and expects your eyes to confirm it. Motion sickness, is one of the many symptoms of elevation sickness

When a mismatch or “sensory conflict” occurs, such as when you can feel the motion of a plane but your eyes suggest you’re sitting still inside a cabin, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness – the hallmarks of motion sickness – can occur.

James Locke, a flight surgeon at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, told Scientific American:
“Information from both our visual and vestibular systems is processed by the brain to match it all up. Your vestibular system—your inner ear—is tuned to a terrestrial, 1G environment. 
…When you move around, changes in your vestibular system match up with what you’re seeing. But riding in an airplane or car, your inner ear signals that you’re moving, but your eye says you’re sitting still.”

There are now well researched natural remedies for motion sickness. 

Symptom: Travelers Diarrhea

&W Photo of bare stomach with "OUT OF ORDER" written on it depicting travelers diarrhea

Why we get travelers diarrhea

Many factors contribute to travelers diarrhea, aka Montezuma’s revenge, including altitude, water, spices, and even overeating. Our stomachs and immune systems are used to the food and bacteria at home so introducing new foods or water can cause the stomach illnesses associated with traveling. Read more here

Symptom: Congestion

Photo of moist eyes and nose representing nasal congestion and sinus pressure on airplanes

Why congestion affects some of us more when we travel

Sinus pressure during air travel occurs because the pressure outside your sinuses changes quicker than your body can equalize, and increased airflow allows your body to bring the two different pressure levels in sync more quickly. Nasal congestion is another of the many symptoms of elevation sickness.

Treatment for sinus pressure issues during flying can depend on the cause of your individual pressure issues. If you have a cold, flu, ear or sinus infection, over-the-counter or prescription medications will do more to help your condition in-flight than simple physical pressure reduction. If you are prone to pressure-issues during air travel, a long-lasting physical solution, such as chewing gum, might be the most appropriate mechanism for you. On the other hand, if you have intermittent pressure issues, some one-off tricks could do the job.

Over-the-counter decongestant pills like Sudafed reduce swelling in your sinuses, allowing more airflow. However, wouldn’t you prefer to try an all natural alternative first? There is now a vitamin to boost your immune system and serve as an anti-inflammatory to protect you against the many causes of altitude / elevation sickness.