Between taking four flights for my honeymoon and flying for a work trip recently, I’ve flown more this year than I ever have. In fact, I only flew for the first time a few years ago because I’m terrified of flying! Besides the fear and anxiety, having POTS can also make flying difficult. But you don’t need to miss out on trips or suffer through flights that flare up your symptoms (and then make your entire trip worse because you don’t feel well). Here are some tips for flying with POTS that can help you get to your destination as comfortably as possible.
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Why is Flying With POTS Hard?
People with POTS can find flying difficult for a number of reasons, including:
- Lack accommodations at airports, which can lead to long periods of standing, among other challenges
- Sitting for a long time and being confined to one spot (which isn’t good for circulation)
- Easy to get dehydrated
- Can be hard to remember or schedule when to take medications
- Potential for motion sickness on the flight (especially if nausea and stomach upset are POTS symptoms you live with)
- If flying makes you stressed or anxious, it may cause a POTS flare; stress is a big trigger for my symptoms
POTS and Flying: Tips to get through it
When you have POTS and flying is in your future, you might be a little anxious about traveling. If this is you, check out this list of tips I’ve put together to help you get through your future flight:
Don’t Forget Your Medications
Pack all of your medications in your carry-on or personal bag so that you have them during the flight. You’ll also want them with you — and not in your checked bag — in case your luggage gets lost. You don’t want to miss a dose because your luggage isn’t with you!
Also, be sure to stay on top of when you’re supposed to take your medication(s). From checking in and checking bags, to getting through security, and finding your gate, you can be so busy that it can be easy to forget a dose. I’ll set an alarm on my phone to remind me when to take my medication.
If you’re flying with POTS and have a disability, read up on airport accommodations that you can take advantage of, such as seating accommodations and reserving a wheelchair to help you get around the airport. The latter can be helpful in case you have to wait in long lines at security and you have trouble standing for a long time. You can check the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website for information on traveling with a disability, including air travel.
Wearing compression socks or compression leggings on your flight can help with blood pooling, especially if you’ll be sitting through a long flight. Because compression helps with circulation, you might feel less dizzy or symptomatic, particularly when you stand up. My favorite compression brands are VIM & VIGR socks because they come in varying levels of compression, as well as CompressionZ high-waisted leggings because they provide compression over my entire lower body and are made of a quality, no-see-through fabric.
Stay on Top of Hydration
You might be tempted to drink less to avoid more bathroom visits at the airport and on the plane, but doing so can lead to dehydration and trigger POTS symptoms. Before our long flight to Italy, I drank about 36 oz of Liquid IV at the airport while we waited three hours to board. I continued to drink water on the plane, too. And even though I had to make a few bathroom trips during the flight, it let me get my circulation moving as well, so I killed two birds with one stone.
Make sure to pack plenty of your favorite electrolyte drinks — not just for your flight but also for your trip!
Pack Salty Snacks
When you’re flying with POTS, don’t forget about your salt needs! Pack your favorite salty snacks to munch on during the flight so you don’t miss out on your daily dose of sodium. For our long Italy flight, I packed a few travel size bags of salted mixed nuts and chips. Pretzels or popcorn would have been great choices as well.
Consider Noise-Canceling Headphones
Planes can be pretty loud places. Whether it’s the plane itself, crying babies, or other passengers being loud, it can be impossible to get away from all the noise. If POTS makes you sensitive to loud noises, you might consider buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds, especially if you’re a frequent flyer or have a long upcoming flight. Don’t want to splurge on a good pair? Try earplugs (I love Mack’s earplugs!) and see if that takes the edge off loud noises enough for you.
Prepare for Nausea
If you get motion sickness on flights or deal with nausea as a POTS symptom, be sure to bring everything you need to fight nausea on the flight. For me, this includes bringing Sea-Band wristbands in case I need to wear them, as well as ginger lozenges (my favorite are Tummydrops natural ginger chews). I’ll also ask the flight attendant for a ginger ale. Peppermint can also help with nausea, so it might not be a bad idea to bring peppermint gum or lifesavers. (Plus, chewing gum can help your ears pop as you adjust to the altitude!)
Bring a Shawl
Planes tend to be a little chilly, so if you’re sensitive to being cold, wear a shawl that can double as a blanket. I brought one on our trip to Italy and was so glad I did. Not only did it keep me warm, but it made the trip more comfortable. A blanket scarf or zip-up hoodie would work just as well!
If you’re on a long flight (like an international flight, for example) and able to, get up and walk around at regular intervals. Even just standing up at your seat can help with circulation. Another option you can try is doing some calf raises or marching in place in your seat — anything to get your legs moving and blood flowing.
Get Up Slowly
Get up slowly to get off the plane — and anytime you get up during the flight to walk around or use the bathroom. Everyone is usually in a rush to get off the plane, but feel free to hang back and let people go first if you need to take your time to avoid passing out upon standing. Usually, I’m sitting toward the back of the plane, so I’ll start stretching my legs and getting ready to stand while people in the front are unloading.
You might be anxious about flying with POTS for one reason or another, but by using some of these tips, you can help make your flight as comfortable as possible. Stay hydrated by drinking electrolytes, pack salty snacks, wear compression garments, and remember to pack your medications somewhere easily accessible. Also remember to move around occasionally — start slow! — and to bring items to help any discomforting symptoms like nausea or noise sensitivity.
Here’s to safe and more comfortable travels as a POTSie! Do you have anymore travel tips for flying with POTS? Drop them in the comments section below.