At this time of year, while many people are looking forward to upcoming holidays, others may be dreading the onset of motion sickness caused by bumpy car rides, turbulent flights, or rocky waters. There are, however, several steps that can be taken to avoid or treat motion sickness, says an expert from the global health system Cleveland Clinic.
“Motion sickness is a common disturbance of the vestibular or balance system, which includes, but is not limited to, the inner ear. Symptoms include nausea, sweating, and dizziness when the vestibular system is stimulated in an unexpected way,” says Cleveland Clinic neurologist Neil Cherian, MD. “Your brain senses movement by getting signals from your ears, eyes, muscles, and joints. When there’s a disconnect between what your inner ear is telling you, what your eyes see, and how you are moving, your brain may not know how to process it. For example, individuals might become airsick because they cannot see the turbulence that is causing the plane to move from side to side.”
Motion sickness is more common in children
Dr Cherian adds that motion sickness is more common in children and that if the first onset occurs later in life, from the age of 30 upwards, this may indicate some type of inner ear disorder, or could be the result of a pre-existing migraine condition, or far less frequently, it could indicate something more serious.
In terms of reducing motion sickness, Dr Cherian says that whether a trip involves a boat, plane, train, bus, or car, the choice of where to sit can make a difference in lowering the chances of feeling ill. Being able to predict the physical motion of the vehicle or actually being able to see outside of the vehicle in the direction of travel can often be helpful, he says.
It is important to avoid distractions such as phones, tablets, and books
“The most common place to experience motion sickness in the car is in the back seat,” D. Cherian says. “The front seat of a car, the forward cars of a train, the upper deck on a boat, or wing seats on a plane may give you a smoother ride. If possible, rest your head against a headrest to minimize movements and to stand up if you feel queasy.”
It is also important to avoid distractions such as phones, tablets, and books. “Motion sickness can be worsened by reading or using your smartphone or by being on a windy road. Try looking out into the distance, as this can help,” says Dr Cherian.
He adds that watching what you eat can also make a difference. “In the hours before you travel, avoid alcohol and greasy foods but make sure to drink lots of water and get plenty of rest. While traveling, eat dry crackers and avoid cigarette smoke.”
If children over 12 years old get motion sickness, Dr Cherian suggests having them ride in the front seat of the car. If they are younger, they could try sitting in the middle seat so they can look forward, toward the road.
Treatment for Motion Sickness
There are a variety of over-the-counter antihistamines that can both prevent and treat motion sickness, or individuals could try wearing motion sickness bands and bracelets or other natural methods after checking these with their doctor, says Dr Cherian.
“The bands and bracelets are based on acupuncture or acupressure points,” explains Dr. Cherian. “In some patients, they can be quite helpful and are generally affordable, while also representing a drug-free option. Other non-pharmaceutical options include ginger or lavender aromatherapy.”
People who have motion sickness are also more prone to migraines so treating the migraine can sometimes help with motion sickness, Dr Cherian adds.
For individuals with severe motion sickness, prescription scopolamine pills or a skin patch are other options. Dr Cherian recommends applying the patch to the skin behind the ear to help prevent motion sickness for up to three days.
“Keep tabs on your symptoms and if you’re concerned about them or they become severe or bothersome, give your doctor a call,” Dr Cherian concludes.