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Travel sickness on long-haul flights


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#1 Roseau

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 19:28

My daughter gets very sick on long-haul flights (after about 7 hours) she just starts to vomit and doesn't stop, even when she has nothing left to bring up. We are going to Australia in the summer and, naturally, is feeling slightly anxious about it.

Last time we went, I tried various "over the counter" travel sickness remedies (different ones on the outward and return flights) and also acupuncture bracelets to no effect. I had spoken to our GP about it before we went (because she had been sick the previous time) but he just dismissed it, which is why I ended up with over the counter products. I have since changed GPs but if anyone has any idea what might be causing it and what it is likely to prevent it before I take her to see the GP I would be grateful.

She is not sick on any other form of transport (cars, coaches, buses, boats and short-haul flights) and can even read in cars without a problem so it must be something specific to long-haul flights but I don't know what.
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#2 Babybird2

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 19:40

Could it be that it is caused by her being scared and worried about flying, rather than the flying itself?
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#3 andante

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 19:58

We have had this with all three of our children on transatlantic flights. It has ONLY happened on the return overnight flights and the first time affected the eldest, then aged 7, the second time affected two of them, I think the younger two , then aged 5 and 8 and last time only the youngest then aged 7. I am hoping that when we go at easter they will have all grown out of it. Each time, as you describe it has been after about 7 hours, usually as they start the descent.

The factors that possibly contribute, as it only seems to be on the return flight. They won't eat plane food, so I take sandwhiches on the way there, but that isn't easy on the return journey as sandwiches would be unpleasant if kept in hot conditions all day before the flight! So maybe they are over hungry, or eat the wrong things, snacking on odds and ends. Maybe they are overtired, as they struggle to sleep on the plane.

The timebefore last a rather strange lady sat next to me had a go at me because my son hadn't eaten his aircraft meal and was then sick. She said you should stop all carbohydrates for 24 hours before the flight and then fill up on carbs just before. (I think that was what she was saying, but it might have been the complete opposite as I was coping with vomiting son at the time) Anyway the theory might be worth some research.

It could just be a combination of changes of air pressure, poor food, lack of sleep and complete disruption of normality. We have tried those wrist bands, but they reckon they make matters worse rather than better, but maybe they just say that because they don't want to wear them.

edit: just found this, might be worth a read. http://www.ehow.com/...ng-flights.html
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#4 Roseau

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:24

QUOTE(Babybird2 @ Mar 25 2011, 08:40 PM)  

Could it be that it is caused by her being scared and worried about flying, rather than the flying itself?

I don't think so. She has flown since she was a baby and isn't scared of flying.

QUOTE(andante @ Mar 25 2011, 08:58 PM)  

It has ONLY happened on the return overnight flights and the first time affected the eldest, then aged 7, the second time affected two of them, I think the younger two , then aged 5 and 8 and last time only the youngest then aged 7. I am hoping that when we go at easter they will have all grown out of it.

The first time it happened to her she was eight (and I thought it was just a one off) but it happened again at 11.

The problem with going to Australia (compared to a transatlantic flight) is that you then have another eight hours of flying after the stop to refuel, so it is a very long time to be constantly vomiting. (The last time, on the way back when we went to reboard the plane in Hong Kong the security officials insisted in putting the bag she was being sick into through the X-ray machine ill.gif )

QUOTE

edit: just found this, might be worth a read. http://www.ehow.com/...ng-flights.html

I tried peppermint oil and ice cubes last time to no avail. That leaves ginger and nutmeg (neither of which she likes sad.gif ).
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#5 JamesK

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:38

I used to throw-up many a time when I was younger, although I still sometimes get a bit light headed (especially at sea). I find that not eating helps me. But of course you are going to Australia, not to Hong Kong for example. Are you stopping in Dubai/ Hong Kong mid journey, or going 24 hours, since not eating for 24 hours is not good.
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#6 Czerny

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:41

I'm no doctor, but I'm struck by the feature of the symptoms exhibiting only after seven hours as this is a very long time to be in an environment with no evident ill effects if it is in fact solely that environment causing the problem (hope that makes sense!). Could it be that she is becoming increasingly dehydrated during that period - or something else like that which is building up gradually? Is there anything else that triggers vomiting in your daughter in other situations that you could make a connection with?

Or could it be psychological? I'm not sure that this really fits, but I used to suffer quite bad car sickness which would start almost immediately at the beginning of a long journey - in other words during that part of the journey that I would do almost every day on my way to school, with no ill effects. Did something maybe happen to trigger the first experience when she was eight? Could relaxation / breathing exercises possibly control the vomiting if there's no physical cause? Hypnotherapy?

I'd be inclined to try another GP - one who's a bit more imaginative or who has perhaps encountered this before. And perhaps trawl the internet if you haven't already done so.
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#7 andante

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:43

That article also reiterated the go easy on carbs and sugars advice and said to stick to high protein with veg before the flight.
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#8 tonedeafmum

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:51

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#9 andante

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 20:58

I've heard of people giving their children Piriton for flying, which is an antihistamine I believe, but my eldest has gone very light headed on the two occasions I have given it to her to combat a mild allergic rash, so I'm a bit wary of it.
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#10 Roseau

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 21:11

QUOTE(JamesK @ Mar 25 2011, 09:38 PM)  

I used to throw-up many a time when I was younger, although I still sometimes get a bit light headed (especially at sea). I find that not eating helps me. But of course you are going to Australia, not to Hong Kong for example. Are you stopping in Dubai/ Hong Kong mid journey, or going 24 hours, since not eating for 24 hours is not good.

We are not stopping over anywhere and total journey time from where we live in France is well over 30 hours (since we have to get to London first).

QUOTE(Czerny @ Mar 25 2011, 09:41 PM)  

Could it be that she is becoming increasingly dehydrated during that period - or something else like that which is building up gradually?

This is what I was hoping somebody could be able to tell me.

I tried to make sure she was drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration. I wondered if perhaps it was the altitude (I think long-haul flights fly higher than short-haul ones) or perhaps the low levels of oxygen (although why this would cause vomiting I don't know).


QUOTE(tonedeafmum @ Mar 25 2011, 09:51 PM)  

If she only suffers on planes and not from motion sickness otherwise then it is quite possibly an inner ear problem (my eldest sister and I both suffer from this - and sister is a very frequent flyer). She swears by cinnarizine which, I think, is an antihistimine.

Aren't all motion sickenesses an inner-ear problem?
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#11 katica

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 21:16

QUOTE(kerioboe @ Mar 25 2011, 03:11 PM)  

I tried to make sure she was drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration. I wondered if perhaps it was the altitude (I think long-haul flights fly higher than short-haul ones) or perhaps the low levels of oxygen (although why this would cause vomiting I don't know).

The altitude/oxygen issue is two sides of the same thing - supposedly cabins are pressurised to compensate but obviously there's still an effect, usually limited to that blocked ear feeling. Does she get a headache or any other symptoms?

When are you going to Australia? Does this mean you won't be able to make any of the Forum events this year?

I do hope you find a solution to your daughter's problem so she doesn't have such a ghastly time on that long flight.
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#12 Roseau

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 21:21

QUOTE(katica @ Mar 25 2011, 10:16 PM)  

When are you going to Australia? Does this mean you won't be able to make any of the Forum events this year?

I'm going for all of July so unless there's something in the first two weeks of August I won't be able to go to any of them. (I am however going on my wind chamber music course in France at the end of August).
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#13 chocolatedog

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 21:30

QUOTE(tonedeafmum @ Mar 25 2011, 08:51 PM)  

If she only suffers on planes and not from motion sickness otherwise then it is quite possibly an inner ear problem (my eldest sister and I both suffer from this - and sister is a very frequent flyer). She swears by cinnarizine which, I think, is an antihistimine.

Being seated near the wing is supposed to help as well. I don't know why though.


The area around the wing is meant to be the most stable and least bumpy area of the plane - certainly better than towards the tail anyway... I usually try to get the wing area for the same reason. I usually take my own sandwiches and nibble them and sip water throughout the flight. I also use travel bands on my wrists, and if possible fly at night too (not that I can sleep, but I tend to "semi-doze"). My long-haul flights were to Japan and Singapore - so between 11 and 13 hours in the air. Never been to Australia though so can't help there, I'm afraid....
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#14 tonedeafmum

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 21:32

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#15 Guest: Mad Tom_*

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 23:51

I saw some research about this a few years ago, and it seemed to show that the main reason for getting travel sick is that the stomach resonates with the natural frequency of vibration of the vehicle. Nothing to do with smells, or heat.

This explains why children are sick on some sorts of transport and not on others, and also why adults tend not to get travel sick (they have bigger stomachs!).

The sickness caused by the inner ear results from fluids continuing to move in the semi-circular canals of the organ of balance and is more common in adults as the fluids are thicker, and the sensors slower to respond.

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