October 9, 2012

Day 9: POTS always seems to sneak in my suitcase...

I have never been a huge fan of traveling.  I like being home.  I hate living out of a suitcase.  And with all my food allergies, I REALLY hate planning food for a whole vacation.  But with a boyfriend on the other side of the country, and unlimited flights in front of me, I had to figure it out.  When I flew out to see Grant for the first time over Labor Day Weekend 2010, it was the first time I had ever flown alone.  I had my xanax and was ready to go.  I survived the flight and managed to save my tears until I got to the airplane on my way home. 

Every trip after that was a little more difficult.  Bouncing back and forth across the country for nine months was exhausting.  I was teaching full time and taking way too many red eyes so that we could spend as much time together as possible.  I often felt sick while flying, but always assumed that was my flight anxiety and the exhaustion kicking in.  I used my xanax as needed and got used to being THAT girl sobbing her way through the airport after tearful goodbyes.

It wasn’t until my first flight home from Clarksville that we really had a problem.  I was flying home by myself to spend Fall Break in California, and I had been pretty sick for the past couple of months.  I had a fever and the shakes and my body was screaming for me to lie down.  And this was all before we’d even left the apartment to go to the airport.  Grant suggested we call Delta (don’t ever fly them, always fly Southwest!) and request a wheelchair.  I was mortified.  I did NOT need a wheelchair.  But I was desperate to make it home.  So I caved, he called the airline, and set up the wheelchair.  They met us at curbside check-in, took me through security, got me on the airplane, met me for my transfer, and took me to baggage claim once we had reached Oakland.

It was WONDERFUL.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so sick as soon as I got on the airplane.  However, take off was brutal.  After lots of online research and reading some books, I have learned that people with Dysautonomia (and more specifically POTS) can struggle with flying.  Mostly take off and landing are problematic because during the rapid change in altitude our bodies can’t regulate as quickly as everyone else’s.  Additionally, sitting up straight for prolonged periods of time can cause blood pooling to occur.

So here are my tips for flying with POTS:
1. Wear comfy clothes.
2. Request wheelchair services if your symptoms are severe enough to require that.
3. Give yourself plenty of time to get through the airport so you don’t have to rush.
4. Pre-board for medical reasons.  This will give your body more time to get settled on the plane.
5. If possible, fly Southwest where you have open seating.  This way, if there are open seats on the plane, ask the flight attendants if you can have an extra one.  This will allow you to lie down when needed!
6. Get sea bands! They will help with any nausea on the flight.
7. Drink PLENTY of water and bring salty snacks to help you feel good while you fly!

What other tips do you have for when you travel?  Add them in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: While I am sharing information I have researched, read about, and found to be helpful myself, I am not a doctor and all decisions regarding your own personal treatment should be discussed with your own doctors.  Remember, I am just a patient.

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