1. WHY DO I GET MOTION SICKNESS?
The ancient Greeks and Romans knew about motion sickness. Even NASA has made note of it. So if you have this common ailment, you’re part of a long tradition.
There are ways to prevent or treat it to keep your travels or trip to the amusement park a pleasant one.
What Causes It?
You get motion sickness when there are conflicts among your senses. Say you’re on a ride at the fair, and it’s spinning you around and upside down. Your eyes see one thing, your muscles feel another, and your inner ears sense something else.
Your brain can’t take in all those mixed signals. That’s why you end up feeling dizzy and sick.
The Role of the Ears
Your inner ears, in particular, help control your sense of balance. They are part of a network called the vestibular system.
This system includes three pairs of semicircular canals and two sacs, called the saccule and the utricle. They send information about what’s going on around you to the brain.
The semicircular canals hold a fluid that moves with the turns of your head. The saccule and utricle are sensitive to gravity. They tell the brain whether you’re standing up or lying down.
The Role of the Brain
Your brain takes in all this data, and it usually comes together and makes sense. But sometimes your brain gets confusing signals.
On a flying plane, for example, you feel like you’re moving, but your eyes tell your brain that you don’t appear to be going anywhere. The opposite is true as well. After a long sea voyage, you can stand still on dry land but still feel like you’re moving.
The result is the same: motion sickness.
Who Gets It?
Anybody can get motion sickness, but it’s most common in children and pregnant women. Unlike a cold, you can’t spread it to other people. It’s not contagious.
Motion sickness can strike quickly and make you break out in a cold sweat and feel like you need to throw up. Other common symptoms include:
- Increase in saliva production
- Loss of appetite
- Pale skin
In addition, some people get headaches, feel very tired, or have shallow breathing.
Tips to Ease It
For most people, symptoms usually don’t last long. They often go away once you get used to the situation, whether it’s the rocking of a boat or the movement of a train.
But there are some simple things you can do if the motion sickness isn’t going away on its own:
- Relax. Find something to focus on, whether it’s taking deep breaths or counting backwards from 100. Closing your eyes can help, too.
- Look at a stable object. If you’re on a boat, look at the horizon. If you’re in a car, look through the windshield.
- Avoid alcohol. Eat lightly before travel but don’t fast.
- Breathe fresh air — and don’t smoke.
- Avoid reading.
If you can, get a seat over the wing if you’re flying, an upper-deck cabin if you’re sailing, or a front-seat spot if you’re in a car.
Some people feel like they get relief with these:
Raw ginger. There’s some scientific proof that this root, long used as a folk remedy to fight nausea, is effective. But it may act as a blood thinner. Talk to your doctor first before you use it.
Mint. Eating peppermint is thought to calm the body. At the very least, the aroma may soothe you.
Acupuncture and acupressure. Some people say that stimulating a certain point just below the wrist helps ease their nausea.
If you’re still bothered by motion sickness, you can talk to your doctor about these:
Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). This over-the-counter antihistamine, used to ease allergies, helps with balance, too. The first dose should be taken about an hour before traveling. More doses are taken every 4 to 6 hours.
Scopolamine (Maldemar). This is a prescription medication. Your wear a patch behind the ear. You apply it 4 hours before needed. A dose lasts 3 days.
Other drugs include:
- Cyclizine (Marezine, Marzine, Emoquil)
- Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine)
- Promethazine (Phenadoz, Phenergan, Promethegan)
- All have side effects, including drowsiness and dry mouth
When Should I See a Doctor?
Motion sickness usually goes away once the journey is over. But if you’re still dizzy, have a headache, continue to vomit, notice hearing loss or chest pain, call your doctor.
2. HOW TO BEAT MOTION SICKNESS
You don’t have to strap into the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair or cram into a bus for a 3-hour trip through curvy mountain roads to understand motion sickness.
Anyone can get it. It happens when your brain gets conflicting information from your body, your eyes, and your inner ear (which tells your brain how your head is moving). For example, if you’re on a boat, your inner ear may detect a rolling motion that your eyes can’t see. That can cause motion sickness.
Who’s at Risk?
Some people are a little more likely to get it than others:
- Women, especially when they’re menstruating, pregnant, or on hormone therapy
- People who get migraines, especially when they have one
- Kids ages 2 to 12
- People who take certain kinds of medications — some antibiotics, narcotics, asthma medicines, antidepressants, and even common over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen
Nausea and vomiting are the most common symptoms caused by motion sickness, but they’re not the only ones. It also can cause cold sweats, headaches, and pain. Sometimes your skin may be pale, or you might get sleepy or have more saliva.
Lots of yawning can be the first sign of motion sickness. And some people get more and more irritable.
Avoid That Sickly Feeling
You can do a few things to try to help with motion sickness:
- Lay off caffeine, alcohol, and big meals before the trip. Drink lots of water instead.
- Lie down if you can, or shut your eyes, and keep your head still. Look at the horizon — don’t read or stare at the seat in front of you.
- Find a better spot. Many people find relief by taking the wheel. If you’re not driving, sit in the front seat rather than in back. If you’re in a plane, sit over the wing rather than in the front or extreme back. If you’re on a bus or train, try to get a seat that faces the way you’re going.
- Add some distractions — music, for example. Or eat something. Dry crackers may calm a queasy stomach. Suck on a lozenge. (Something with ginger in it may be especially helpful.) Light, fizzy drinks, like ginger ale, also can help.
- There’s some evidence that bands that put pressure on your wrist — some send small electrical stimulation to a specific area — can help, but other studies have shown that they don’t.
If you can’t keep it at bay, there are two kinds of medicine you can take for motion sickness. The first is antihistamines, both prescription and over-the-counter. These are the most commonly used medications for motion sickness, and they’re available in any drug store and in many supermarkets. Cyclizine (Marezine) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) are two major ones.
Make sure to read the drug labels, though. One of the big side effects of these medications is drowsiness. Some products use different ingredients that don’t make you as sleepy, but they may not work as well.
The other well-known drug used to keep motion sickness under control is scopolamine (Transderm Scop). It’s an adhesive patch you put behind your ear a few hours before you think you’ll need it. You have to have a prescription to get it.
Kids shouldn’t take antihistamines or scopolamine. If your child is between the ages of 2 and 12, dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) might be helpful. Try a test dose before you leave home, though, because some children can be sensitive to them.
As with all drugs — including over-the-counter antihistamines — check with your doctor before you take them or give them to your child.