Many of my patients complain about getting motion sickness when they travel – that icky kind of head spinning, stomach turning sensation that can occur when traveling by boat, plane, or train – especially boats! As a kid, I used to get motion sickness in the winter, all bundled up in warm winter clothes, riding in the backseat of my parents car trying to read my book, with the heater on full force. Ugh, just remembering it makes me carsick!
If you’re bothered by motion sickness when you travel, like my patients, you likely want to know if there is anything you can do to prevent it so you can actually enjoy your trip without becoming nauseated before you get there! My answer is, yes! There are several things you can do. First let me explain what motion sickness is and why people get it.
What Is Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness occurs when your brain perceives movement from your inner ear, your eyes, your muscles and your joints. When your brain gets conflicting signals, i.e., your inner ear says you are moving but your eyes don’t see the movement, you can get motion sickness. The most common symptoms of it are breaking out in a cold sweat and dizziness. Overheated environments don’t help either as the dizziness and combined heat can bring on nausea and even vomiting.
How Can You Prevent Motion Sickness?
There are a few things you can do to prevent getting carsick, airsick, or seasick, the 3 most common forms of motion sickness.
➢ Keep your environment temp on the cooler side. Even traveling in a car with the heater going, crack a window, even in winter, to get some fresh air into the vehicle. If you’re on a plane, or a train, where cabins/cars can get very stuffy, make sure you turn your overhead air on low, and aim it near you, not directly on you. You don’t want to catch a cold either as sinus/nasal congestion can aggravate motion sickness too. If you’re traveling on a cruise, be sure the temperature in your cabin is comfortable and you’re not overdressed for the temperature.
➢ Keep your eyes focused on something in front of you, further away, rather than on trying to read a book or magazine, especially in a moving car or bumpy train. On larger commercial aircraft carriers, generally, after a plane is in flight, reading is not a problem for creating motion sickness, unless there is a lot of turbulence. However, it could be a problem in a smaller personal type plane where the ride may not be as smooth.
➢ Choose Your Seat. If traveling by car, try to sit up front; if by plane, ask for a wing seat which doesn’t register motion of the plane as much as other areas; by train, ask for a seat in the middle cars for the same reason because they don’t register the motion as much as front and back car seats do. On a cruise, ask for an upper deck or a cabin near the front of the boat to minimize movement perception.
➢ Shun Smoke and Other Noxious Smells: Smoke and overpowering smells like gasoline/diesel fumes, car deodorants, food smells, even the perfume on a fellow traveler, can sometimes be enough to make your head and stomach do cartwheels.
➢ Don’t Drink/Eat Too Much: People on cruises soon find out that spending too much time at the buffet tables and/or bar can make them really miserable with nausea and vomiting, especially if the water gets a little choppy and the sun is beating down on the decks. Avoid very spicy, heavy fat type of foods in a moving environment.
➢ Get Scopolamine: Before you travel, ask your doctor for a prescription for a scopolamine patch that you can put behind your ear to work for 72 hours.
➢ Cola and Crackers: You might want to carry some dry soda crackers (like Saltines) and have access to a cold cola soft drink if you do become nauseated. Cola and crackers almost always work to relieve nausea.
➢ Check your eyes: Your vision may need correction. You may be nearsighted or farsighted and can get dizzy trying to focus up close and far away. If you’re over 40, you may simply need reading glasses or bifocal lenses.
➢ Check your ears: A condition called Meniere disease can sometimes masquerade as travel-based motion sickness. In actuality, it is an inner ear problem that can cause balance disturbances and a feeling of motion sickness. Meniere disease is treatable by prescription and sometimes surgery if there is an inner ear functional or structural problem causing it.
Remembering my bouts with car sickness as a kid, I know that getting motion sickness while traveling can be miserable. However, if you follow the recommendations outlined above, you should be able to ward off becoming airsick, carsick or seasick and enjoy the journey to and from your destination. Happy trails!
Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut