Most people experience motion sickness under severe conditions. But even a simple car ride can cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting in sensitive people. Here’s how to keep an even keel.
Motion sickness occurs when there is a mismatch between what your brain anticipates a movement will feel like and the sensory information it actually receives. If you are below deck in a boat, for instance, your inner ear senses movement that your visual system does not detect, resulting in a sensory conflict. Or, there can be a mismatch if your eyes detect motion while your body is still—as in a virtual-reality ride or when watching a movie with shaky camera work.
Help is on the way
Over-the-counter antihistamines. These can help prevent and treat mild motion sickness. They are best taken 30 to 60 minutes before travel. Side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth and, more rarely, blurred vision. People with lung conditions or glaucoma, and men with an enlarged prostate should not take antihistamines. Don’t take them if you are operating a vehicle.
A prescription option. Scopolamine is usually prescribed for motion sickness as a transdermal patch (Transderm-Scop) that you place behind your ear six to eight hours before you leave. It may produce drowsiness as well as dry mouth, changes in heart rate and blurred vision; there are rare reports of hallucinations and delusions.
Alternative remedies. Many dietary supplements are touted for motion sickness with little or no scientific data to back them. Ginger is one of the most popular herbs used, but studies are mixed. You can try it if you want—though large amounts can cause heartburn or other mild gastrointestinal problems. There are no well-designed published studies to back the claims of homeopathic products marketed for motion sickness.
Wrist bands. Pressing on a spot on the inside of the wrist (P6 acupuncture point) helps relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy, pregnancy,\ and anesthesia, according to some research. But there is no good evidence that acupressure bands, such as Sea-Bands—with a button that presses against the point—are effective. Research on electrostimulation of P6 using the ReliefBand is more promising. This battery-operated device, which is worn like a watch and delivers a mild electrical current, has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for relief of nausea from motion sickness and other causes.
Other soothing tips for motion sickness
Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before and while traveling. Avoid strong or unpleasant odors, like cigarette smoke and perfume.
At sea, stay topside and amidships; look at the horizon or some other fixed distant point. If below deck, close your eyes.
Choose a seat in vehicles where you have a clear view of the road ahead. Sitting in the front seat of a car is best.
Keep your head as still as possible—avoid moving it side to side or tilting it up or down. Refrain from reading, writing, working on a laptop, or doing other tasks that require even subtle eye movements.
Keep windows open for fresh air, if possible. If you have air vents, aim them toward you.
Try slow, regular breathing. Lying down may also help.