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Fliers' Survival Guide for Airports, Planes

Taking some simple precautions can help ensure a safe and healthy arrival.

Manage Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can happen, and most planes still provide air-sickness bags in seat pockets. Some over-the-counter motion sickness products can help, Powell says. Ginger supplements or ginger ale may also help prevent nausea.

"Take these before you start feeling sick," Powell says. "Don't eat a heavy or spicy meal before you fly."

The more turbulent the flight, the greater your risk of feeling ill. Motion sickness occurs when there is a disconnect between what your body is feeling and what your eyes are seeing. Keeping your eyes on the horizon may help.

Most planes no longer provide free meals, but many do offer snacks. "Pick up a plain turkey or vegetable sandwich," Zimring says. "This way you know you will have a decent meal instead of the junk they serve you or you can buy." Healthy eating also helps prevent motion sickness.

Chew Gum

The uncomfortable feeling of clogged or popping ears when flying occurs because of changes in air pressure and altitude that cause a swelling of your Eustachian tubes. 

"Try yawning, chewing gum, or gently holding your nose and blowing," Powell says. 

Using over-the-counter decongestants, whether pills or nasal sprays, before a flight can also help unclog your ears.

Reset Your Internal Clock ASAP

Jet lag can ruin an otherwise happy holiday vacation. "When you arrive, get right on the new time zone as quickly as you can," Powell says. "If it's bedtime, try to go to bed, and if it's daytime, try to stay awake."

Supplements of the hormone melatonin may help with jet lag by regulating sleep and wake cycles. "Take it before bed," Powell says.

High Anxiety

All of the focus on terrorist attacks has increased anxiety about flying, says Tara Brass, MD, a psychiatrist in Manhattan and Scarsdale, N.Y. "People's level of anxiety has increased since Sept, 11, and this is largely a result of media attention on airplane safety," she says.

If you are an anxious flyer, "fly with somebody you are comfortable with who doesn't share your anxiety," Brass says.

Tune out the background noise with music. "Normal plane noises such as the sound the engine makes after takeoff or before landing can be anxiety-provoking," Brass says. "Bring music to drown it out, listen to in-flight entertainment, or read a trashy magazine for distraction," she says.

If you are traveling alone, tell your neighbor that you are a nervous flier.

"Talk to people around you, and say ' I am afraid of flying, and I may grab your hand," Brass says. But not everyone is up for conversation or hand-holding on your flight, so be respectful of your seatmate's boundaries.

Other tips include always flying direct (to avoid multiple take-off and landings) and not booking early morning or red-eye flights. "Being tired can increase your risk of anxiety," Brass says.

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