So back in December my wife and I took a trip to Spain for our 20th anniversary and she fainted dead away about two-thirds of the way over the Atlantic.
I, of course, am made of sterner stuff. Nothing so pedestrian could ever happen to me with my robust constitution, my travel hardened psyche and my million mile travel balances.
Until recently. Karma, as they say, is a wench.
On a recent trip to Cleveland my wife and I got to the airport to grab some breakfast before our flight and then piled into a bus of the air for a short flight to the Land of Cleves.
Almost spot on halfway through the flight, my vision got dim, I started seeing spots and floaters and the dizziness hit. Then, BAM, out like a light.
Cue the panicked flight attendants, nervous wife and a helpful seat mate (thank you, John) for a bit of craziness.
So…if it can happen to me…it can happen to anyone. After a bit of research I have assembled some advice to help you avoid the issues we bumped into.
The condition seems related to a drop in blood pressure often complicated by the pressurization of the plane (the pilot has discretion here so it can change from flight to flight) and the fact that plane seats tend to block circulation from your legs and feet to the rest of your body.
Not enough blood for your brain and your body will shut it all down with a faint…WHA-BAM!! You wake up in a bit in a horrible cold sweat and you want to die. Fun, huh?
So, here are a couple of things you can do:
1. If you recently started medications to treat high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before you fly. I might be guilty of messing this one up…
2. Do not eat for at least three hours before you get on a plane, especially heavy foods. The lack of pressure on the plane can cause your bowels to blow up like balloons and your body will commandeer more blood to help your digestion…which your brain needs to not faint!
3. Carry some salty snacks. If you start to feel faint you can use these (in moderation) to elevate your blood pressure and help your blood flow.
4. Do some simple exercises and move around BEFORE you start feeling faint.
5. Avoid alcohol on a flight. Alcohol will dehydrate you and lower your blood pressure. A bad combination if you already tend towards fainting on a plane.
6. Drink water. This will keep you hydrated and keep you heading to the lovely, spacious airplane bathroom, making you move around during the flight.
7. If do start to feel faint, try to get your feet and legs above or equal to your head. This is really challenging on a plane, and your best bet is to lie down in the aisle. Icky. Hitting the flight attendant call button if you start feeling this way will start a chain reaction that will likely get you in that position quicker. If you can actually reach your arms above your head.
8. Finally…don’t play the tough guy. Ask for some help as SOON as you start feeling weird. It is far easier on you if you avoid the faint and not recover from it.
So, hopefully that is a bit of a help should you find yourself in a similar situation. Oh yeah…you may want to pick up some cheap insurance if your bladder control isn’t what it used to be.