The risk of vertigo during travelling

With the school holidays close at hand and a lot of people about to travel I am often asked what the risk of vertigo during travelling is. Many patients that suffer with dizziness, vertigo or vestibular disorders have a fear of travelling, of getting sick, suffering vertigo attacks and feeling miserable afterwards.

The risk of vertigo during travelling
Faster air travel may influence vertigo in some susceptable patients.

This is a realistic concern of patients since a lot of people considered to be normal also gets sick and experience dizziness during travel.

The conditions of travel that are problematic include those that involve exposure to rapid altitude or pressure changes, certain motion patterns such as sea travel and disturbing lights. As South Africans it is usually the long flights abroad that is problematic. Attempting to avoid the experience by taking sleeping tablets, anti-travelling sickness drugs or anti-anxiety medication that causes sleepiness may pose a risk of developing blood clots (deep vein thrombosis). This economy class syndrome occurs specifically when passengers are cramped up in economy class during longer flights without walking and stretching their legs.

Whether a patient may get sick during travel is a difficult question for the health care provider to answer. Obviously the risk depends on the vestibular disorder of the patient. Other factors that may influence the travel decisions of patients and influence the risk include the mode of transportation (airplane, boat, train or motor vehicle) and the planned activities at the destination (for instance a ski holiday).

Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to lower the risk of vertigo attacks, dizziness and getting sick. A lot of options, medical and non-medical exist. The vestibular disorder association has published a document on some of these issues and some of the preventative strategies that may help to reduce the risk of vertigo during travelling.

Travel and vestibular disorders