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How to Deal with Motion Sickness

What is Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when there is a stark contrast between the movement sensed by the inner ear (called the “vestibular system”) and the movement that is visualized. One of the most common instances of motion sickness occurs when travelling by boat; where the inner ear senses the swaying of the boat on the water, but the eyes visualize the body as being stationary in relation to the boat’s movement.

The brain is not able to appropriately manage for the conflict of information between the two systems, leading to typical symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. While motion sickness most often occurs during sea and air travel, it can be brought on through any type of motion that involves a stationary visualization, such as riding in a car, amusement park rides, and virtual reality games or simulations.

How Motion Sickness Makes You Feel 

The more common symptoms of motion sickness include nausea that doesn’t go away after vomiting, extreme dizziness, sweating, and pale skin. Motion sickness hits in stages and starts off as dizziness, pale skin, sweating, and increased saliva production in the mouth which then quickly turns into extreme nausea followed by vomiting.

While motion sickness may seem a trivial nuisance to some people, it can be debilitating for others and can have a major impact on a person’s life. In severe cases, motion sickness can lead to a reluctance to travel or use any type of transportation because of the extreme anxiety and discomfort that comes with travelling by a car, bus, or plane.

Ways to Manage Motion Sickness

Because motion sickness is a common ailment that affects millions of people daily, there are a plethora of ways to prevent the development of motion sickness and how to manage the symptoms when its already started.

1. Using medications

The first method to managing motion sickness symptoms is to use either over-the counter (OTC) medications or drugs prescribed by a qualified medical professional. Drugs that are classified as antihistamines are the primary treatment for preventing and treating motion sickness and come in both OTC and prescription forms. Currently, the prescription only scopolamine transdermal patches (patches that are worn on the skin) are the go-to drug therapy for those who suffer from motion sickness.

A few of the common OTC medications that are used for motion sickness include Dramamine and its generic form dimenhydrinate, meclizine, Benadryl (diphenhydramine), and promethazine.

2. Choose a Seat with Less Movement and More Horizon

A simple method to decrease your chances of developing motion sickness is to choose a seat that experiences little movement and offers a view of the horizon. Being able to look at the horizon can help your brain better predict movement and can be a stabilizer, decreasing your body’s sense of movement. Depending on your mode of transportation, there are a few key rules that will help you find that magic seat.

  • When you are traveling by plane, for instance, you will want to book a seat in the middle section of the plane, between the wings. Alternatively, middle seats towards the front section of the plane are also great options for those who are worried about motion sickness. Obviously, you will still have to deal with some movement, as many flights experience some sort of turbulence during s trip, but seats in the middle are more stable and experiences less movement than any other seats on the plane.
  • While travelling on a boat, you will also want to look for a cabin in the middle of the ship that is close to water level. Large waves and bobs are much less intense on the lower decks of the ship, because they are closer to the water surface. You will also want to avoid any higher decks where the movement of the ship is more noticeable.
  • Finally, when you are riding in the backseat of a car, you will want to sit in the middle so you can have a largely undisturbed view of the horizon. You also will want to stay sitting forward with your chin up to keep your body from experiencing unnecessary movement.

3. Grounding Yourself to a Steady/Stationary Surface

The next method to managing motion sickness is being able to stabilize yourself on a stationary surface, like getting out of the car. Stepping onto a solid surface is somewhat like pressing the reset button on your brain and can stop motion sickness in its tracks.

Grounding yourself on a stable surface is not limited to stepping on solid ground, either, focusing on the horizon in a plane or on a boat can also help stabilize your vestibular system and calm nausea.

4. Keep Ginger-Flavored Drinks or Snacks Easily Accessible

Appropriated from an old wives’ tale, ginger root can help calm an uneasy stomach. While the science behind ginger helping with nausea is lacking, many people around the world swear by it. Whether it is scientifically sound or not, ginger is cheap and not harmful to the body. Ginger also comes in various forms, from ginger soft drinks, ginger snacks, and even in pill form to help calm nausea and vomiting.

5. Don’t Travel on an Empty Stomach

Shockingly, travelling on an empty stomach increases your likelihood of developing motion sickness. Multiple experts recommend eating a small lunch or protein-filled snack, such as turkey, peanut butter, or even plain crackers, about 45 minutes before you start your trip and this can help settle your stomach and prevent your snack coming back up a couple hours later.

Snacking on bland foods, like crackers, during your trip can also help ease an uneasy stomach and prevent motion sickness.

6. Pay Attention to your Breathing

Another easy way to combat both nausea and motion sickness while on a boat is to time your breathing against the movement of the boat. Researchers have found that exhaling when the boat is in the back of its sway movement delays both the onset and progression of nausea and vomiting.

7. Rest up before your Trip

And finally, the last tip to help manage motion sickness is to get adequate sleep before you set out on your trip. Sleep deprivation can greatly increase a person’s susceptibility to developing motion sickness.

Motion sickness, while disruptive and annoying, can be managed through a variety of different methods and should not keep you from enjoying your trip. Remember these tips to help you beat motion sickness on your next vacation.

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