About motion sickness

That old, uninvited guest

Why it's so devastating

When it hits, motion sickness is upsetting for you and your loved ones, disrupting events, your travel plans and dreams. Dealing with symptoms like nausea, dizziness, vomiting or headache can be personally embarrassing and worrisome for those travelling with you. The symptoms can come up in cars, trains and airplanes – but occurs most often on the water, on boat rides and cruises. Women experience motion sickness more than men. It also occurs more often in women during menstruation and pregnancy.1

1 The Pharmacologic Management of Motion Sickness. Lust K et al. US Pharm 2015;30(12):34-38

 

What's actually happening

Motion sickness is a common occurrence for many people during travel. The continuous, slow and prolonged motion on boats and in vehicles increases activity of the nerve fibers of the inner ear, which are part of the body’s balance mechanism. While there is no universally accepted explanation about why this results in motion sickness, one commonly held view is that it originates from a mismatch between sensory inputs - meaning that the motion you perceive visually doesn’t match the motion sensed by the brain.1

 

1 Managing motion sickness. Murdin L et al. BMJ 2011;343:1-7. -The Pharmacologic Management of Motion Sickness. Lust K et al. US Pharm 2015;30(12):34-38

 

 

Symptoms and management

Mild motion sickness can make you feel a little uncomfortable with mild nausea. Or you might experience fatigue, drowsiness and irritability. You may feel anxious, sweat or salivate a lot, become pale and nauseous, with vomiting or persistent retching.1

Symptoms usually subside once the motion has stopped but can take up to 3 days to completely resolve. Most common complications of motion sickness are dehydration, anxiety and depression.2

Symptoms usually disappear once the brain adapts to the new pattern of motion – but more often, travellers rely on various forms of relief like proven medication in the form of a patch, gels, tablets or suppositories. Some people try alternative methods like motion sickness bracelets and acupressure, various homeopathic remedies, or natural ginger, peppermint and others. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which solution is right for you.

1 Prevention and treatment of motion sickness. Brainard A et al. Am Fam Physician 2014;90(1):41-46
2 Motion Sickness treatment & Management. Brainard A et al. Medscape updated Mar 23, 2016

Boat

What helps

Book your cabin in the front or middle of the cruise ship, near the water level.1 Stay regularly on deck in the fresh air, where you can focus on the horizon. Some studies have shown that controlled breathing or listening to music can also help.2

 

1 Motion sickness: First Aid. Mayo Clinic. 10 Oct 2014
2 Prevention and treatment of motion sickness. Brainard A et al. Am Fam Physician 2014;90(1):41-46

Plane

What helps

Book your seat over a wing, and in a window seat where you can see into the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

Car

What helps

Ideally, drive or sit in the front passenger seat. If not, pretend you’re ‘driving’ in order to keep your eyes on the stable horizon versus the fast-moving side of the road, and keep a window open.

 

Train

What helps

Avoid backward-facing seats, and sit where you can clearly view the horizon at eye level.

On any mode of transportation, it helps if you don’t read, and if you close your eyes whenever you can’t focus on the horizon.