Fainting Mid-Flight: Why it Happens + How to Avoid It

I was feeling totally fine, in fact, I was better than fine. I was on my way to New Zealand to road trip the south island for the next week and couldn’t have been more excited! So you can imagine it was a bit of a surprise when I found myself fainting mid-flight at 30,000 feet in the air.

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Fainting Mid-Flight on an Airplane

I had gotten to the airport extra early and found the perfect cozy corner to sit myself in, to do a bit of work, and ordered a pizza and a nice cold beer. Everything was going smoothly! I boarded the plane, settled into my window seat (always), and closed my eyes to nap. The seats felt a little more cramped than usual, I fly Jetstar often, so I found it a little out of the ordinary, but nothing to be alarmed about.

About 30 minutes later, I woke up suddenly and was not feeling well, I mean REALLY not feeling well. My vision started to blackout and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach: I’m about to faint. Luckily, the flight attendants just happened to be going by serving refreshments at that moment. I got the attention of one of them, said “I think I’m going to faint,” and it all went blank.

fainting mid flight

What Happens After You Faint on an Airplane

Next thing I knew, I was waking up to my row being cleared and an oxygen mask being strapped to my face. I could tell everyone was worried but they remained calm. They kept trying to get me to talk, which wasn’t an easy task with an oxygen mask on, but I managed to get out that it might be low blood sugar and asked for some sprite or chocolate. It helped a little, but not a lot.

Then the anxiety kicked in. I started panicking that I had just fainted on a plane and was about to land in a foreign country for the first time at 2 in the morning where I had no one to help me. It was terrifying. And to make matters worse, everyone was staring at me. I just told myself to stay calm and keep taking big deep breaths.

This one flight attendant, I wish I knew her name so I could thank her, sat with me for the remainder of the flight. She constantly made sure I was okay, checked my oxygen levels, and all around made me feel comfortable in a very frightening situation. Luckily, as the plane began to descend, I started feeling better and was able to walk off the plane on my own.

Why Do People Faint on Flights

Fainting is actually one of the most common medical crisis on a plane. It can be caused due to lack of oxygen to the brain from air cabin pressure, standing up too fast after sitting for a long time, dehydration or it could be a condition called Vasovagal Syncope.

According to Mayo Clinic, Vasovagal Syncope “occurs when you faint because your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress.”

How to Prevent Fainting Mid-Flight on a Plane

Stay Hydrated

Since dehydration can be a major cause, be sure to drink plenty of water before and during the flight! Limit alcohol as it can cause you to feel even more dehydrated. 

staying hydrated on airplane

Move Around

Be sure to try and stand up and move around periodically throughout the flight. This will keep your blood circulating throughout your body better. You can also do seated “exercises” in your seat. Roll your ankles around, do calf raises, flex your leg muscles to keep blood flowing.

Watch Your Blood Sugar

I am not a dotor by any means, but for me personally, if I start to feel faint, I will always try to eat or drink something with sugar in it. A lot of times it will help with my blood sugar and prevent it. So it might be a good idea to bring a candy bar or a soda with you on the flight just in case you need it. Or get one from a flight attendant!

Try to Stay Cool

You can’t help the temperature of the plane’s cabin, but luckily it’s usually pretty cool in the cabin. Try not to bundle up too much and get overheated, that can cause you to fain as well.

What to Do if You Think You're Going to Faint

Push the Call Button to Get Help

First things first, if you are feeling faint push your call button and try to flag down a flight attendant.

Do NOT try and get up to find someone. Standing up quickly could cause you to pass out more quickly. You also don’t want to be standing up if you do, there’s a higher chance of injury if you fall.

If you can’t see someone coming immediately, let a seat mate know or someone else around you so that they can get help.

call button on airplane

Try Not to Panic

Panicking and anxiety can also cause you to faint as well. Easier said than done (trust me), but try your best to remain calm and know that it will be okay.

Eat Something Sugary

Like I mentioned earliesr, try to eat something sugary to help your blood sugar.

Final Notes on Fainting Mid-Flight

Passing out mid-flight is not a small thing — it’s scary and alarming. Especially when you’re flying into a foreign country for the first time at 2 in the morning. The flight attendants were ready to call the paramedics should I have needed it when we landed. Luckily, that wasn’t necessary. But, had it come to that, it would’ve been a perfect example of when travel insurance comes in handy.

I know flight attendants deal with a lot of shit, so I really just wanted to take this post to thank those Jetstar flight attendants for being so great, and also all flight attendants that go above and beyond their job requirements. I know a lot of airlines are getting a lot of bad press lately (including Jetstar) so I just wanted to share a little good karma.

20 thoughts on “Fainting Mid-Flight: Why it Happens + How to Avoid It

  1. Yes it has happened to me twice. I have salt tablets I take if i feel it coming on. It happens when I get over heated and normally I am always cold.!!!! I always get up and walkaround but I fell once luckily I was in the stewards area. Now I know to not get up but to ring for the steward.

  2. Happened to me too just recently, for the first time! I had ordered two wine drinks on an international flight (free drinks!) and settled in to sleep when suddenly I started to feel really nauseous. My vision started to black out a little and I had a weird tingly sensation in my brain. I started to panic thinking I needed to go to the bathroom and vomit, but I was penned in in the middle of my row by sleeping people and didn’t want to create a scene. I tried to breath deeply to calm the nerves and drank plenty of water. Nausea lasted for about an hour and then went away. I think it was dehydration, tiredness and high altitude. I’m not drinking anymore on flights and am bringing a big bottle of water…they never seem to give enough to keep me hydrated.

  3. This happens to me almost every single time that I fly. I don’t know what to do about it. First the dizziness, then diaphoresis and then the dying urge to pass out. It’s awful. I’ve tried taking sleep agents but I STILL wake up mid-air feeling faint.

    1. True.. this happens always with my husband when we fly. Doctor’s cannot give any reason as to why is this happening. I am scared when it comes to flying with him. Hope no one faces this situation.

  4. This happened to me on almost all of my long haul flights. Last time it happened the plane had to stop early. I passed out in the middle of the aisle and woke up to oxygen mask on my face. I could feel it coming on and woke up as i knew i needed help so had to rush towards the flight attendants. The two passenger beside me had fallen asleep too so i rushed fir help. I have sickle cell anemia and doctors have told me this could be the cause if it as my body is not getting enough oxygen when I fall asleep. It is so scary. I try to split my flights into as many as possible and at no cost fall asleep.

  5. Happened to me twice now. Both times I felt it coming, managed not to pass out and recover after a while. It is important not to panic and not to get up. Concentrate on breathing deep and move your arms, hands, legs and feet to get the circulation going. It also helps to rest your head on your knees or on the tray if you are not too tall. Drink some juice if possible.

  6. Happened to my husband twice now. Both night flights. The symptoms last time lasted for a long time – losing conscience and vomiting. Happens when he goes to sleep Wondering if blood pressure tablets have some effect ?

  7. I take blood pressure medicine to fly coupled with Xanax. That and I pay for rows with extra legroom because I am 6’4. but the cardiologist said I have have healthy low blood pressure but flying can drop it lower with the pressure and the oxygen and once you get below a certain rate your body goes into survival mode.

  8. I think this happened with me during my last flight. This is why I found this blog. First of all, I consider myself a health and athlete guy without any health issues. I fainted during an international red eye flight of 8 hours. I was traveling with my family 3 kids and wife. I was seated in a double row with my 5 year old son sleeping with his head on my lap. My symptoms started after 4 hours of flight. Everything was very quick about 10 min the whole event. First, I felt hot, then stomach pain followed with nausea. Then, when I started to feel my pressure low, I tried to call my wife in the front seat who was sleeping. No chance, my head started to become heavy and spin… I think I fainted for 20 seconds… and woke up very scared. Nobody realized what happens with me. But, my symptoms disappeared and started to feel better.
    My suspicious… the airplane ac was not cold enough, I stayed for long time immobilized because I didn’t want my kid to wake up… I don’t think I was dehydrated… actually I drank at least 1 liter before everything started.

  9. This happened to me yesterday. One minute I was happily sleeping, next thing I know I’m awake sweating heavily with blurred vision. In my mind I knew I was going to pass out. Luckily my wife was sat next to me. It was all over in under ten minutes and I was able to walk off the plane unaided when we landed. Although according to my wife the whole episode gave her one hell of a scare.

  10. I have been passing out mid flight more frequently now. Anyone receive a diagnosis? Are flight crew trying to preserve oxygen and now circulation oxygen levels at minimum? I heard flight crews are able to increase oxygen levels mid flight.

  11. I was flying to Albany NY and I started feeling sick, nothing new on land. Told my husband that I needed my alcohol pads. That was it. I could hear my husband on the background. Luckily there was one paramedic & two cardiac nurses on board. Raised my legs, oxygen tank, orange juice, etc. They also gave me my diabetes med. Blood pressure 88/44. I thought I was a gone. That day I had drank some sweet shots just to ease things in plane.
    Then it started again from NYC to Ft. Laud. I tried not to panic. This time I had zero alcohol and took a xanax. Took out my alcohol pads & asked flight attendant for some OJ. We love to travel. Now I am super scared as this had never happened in air. Stay safe everyone.

  12. Thanks for the article. I fainted mid flight for the first time last October and it really scared me. Luckily I was flying with my husband who is a doctor. I was so relieved to read that other people have gone through the same thing. On my flight two other passengers were ill. My husband spent the whole flight looking after us all!! Makes you wonder if there was something wrong with the cabin’s air pressure. I fly frequently but this was the first time I had this happen to me.

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