Whoever said ‘getting there is half the fun’ didn’t suffer from motion sickness. Long car trips, rough boat rides and turbulent flights can all induce nausea, light-headedness, sweating and, in severe cases, vomiting. Some 90 percent of adults are affected by motion sickness to some degree.
Motion sickness is caused when the body’s delicate system of balance receives mixed messages, says Dr. Julie Thomson, a family physician specializing in travel medicine at the Odyssey Travel and Tropical Medicine Clinic in Calgary. ‘Sensory signals are sent to the brain from the eyes, inner ears, and receptors in our joints and muscles in order to maintain balance,’ she says. ‘But when the brain gets mixed messages [for example, when you’re in a car and your eyes sense you’re moving even though the car is sitting still], this conflict triggers the vomiting centre in the central nervous system.‘ Women are more likely to suffer than men, and hormones can play a role: If you’re menstruating, pregnant or on oral contraceptives, you’re more likely to get sick. Usually symptoms subside once the movement stops.
Motion sickness can be unpleasant, but it isn’t serious’unless you experience prolonged vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. ‘Motion sickness is much easier to prevent than to treat once it occurs,’ says Thomson.
4 ways to prevent motion sickness
‘ Choose the right seat. On an airplane, sit near the wing because it’s less turbulent there. In a car, drive or sit in the front seat as it’s better to be looking forward than watching out a side window. On boats, the middle area is the least rocky.
‘ Don’t read while travelling. Reading increases the conflict between what the eyes see and what the body feels.
‘ Focus on a fixed object or the horizon. This will give your brain a visual cue that matches the messages it’s receiving from the rest of your body.
‘ Lie down and close your eyes. Reducing the amount of visual stimulus can also ease symptoms.
Already feeling queasy? Check out the best remedies for motion sickness.
This article was originally titled "Prevent motion sickness," in the Summer 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.