Traveling can be full of memories that will last forever. But for some travelers, motion sickness awaits the journey whether you fly or drive.
“Motion sickness, also known as seasickness or carsickness, is caused by a disturbance of the inner ear resulting in spatial orientation and impaired sense of balance and equilibrium,” explains Katie Swanson, a family medicine nurse practitioner at Advocate Medical Group in Huntley, Ill. “When the eyes, inner ears, muscles, and joints deliver conflicting information, our brain does not know whether we are stationary or moving. Our brain’s confused reaction causes the feeling of motion sickness.”
Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, increased saliva production, irritability, dizziness, cold sweats, rapid breathing and pale skin. According to Swanson, motion sickness usually resolves when the repetitive motion stops.
She also explains that some people are more susceptible to motion sickness, including children ages 2-12, women on their menstrual cycle, pregnant people, and those who experience migraines.
To prevent the uncomfortable sensation, Swanson recommends:
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Rolling down the window when driving.
- Getting fresh air.
- Facing the direction you are traveling.
- Putting down the phone, tablet or book while in the car.
- Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine or using a scopolamine skin patch prior to travel.
If you experience persistent motion sickness, there are “additional medications, which require a prescription from your primary care provider, including promethazine, meclizine, and ondansetron,” Swanson adds.
For non-medication treatment options, Swanson advises:
- Trying aromatherapy.
- Facing forward with air vents turned towards your face.
- Sucking on ginger or peppermint candies.
- Sitting at the front of the vehicle.
- Taking a nap.
- Focusing on the horizon.
Prevention and treatment will vary for children based on their age and tolerance. “Children are sometimes reluctant to take medication so non-pharmacologic methods of treatment or prevention may be best,” Swanson says. “Successful interventions for children include deep breathing, singing, having the child close his or her eyes, or applying a cool cloth over their head.”
When giving medication to children, be sure to follow the appropriate dosing.
“Motion sickness can be due to an underlying balance disorder, fluid in the ear, an infection or Meniere’s disease,” she adds. If you are concerned about frequent motion sickness, speak to your doctor.