Tips for Preventing Motion Sickness

Before reaching for the barf bag on planes, trains or automobile trips, learn how you can prevent motion sickness 

Credit: Flickr/lrargerich

Motion sickness results from a disconnect between what the body feels and what the eyes see

Nothing takes the fun out of travelling faster than motion sickness. Here’s how to prevent and treat it

While motion sickness can affect anyone, it tends to be most common among children under 12 years of age, with symptoms that can range from feeling unwell to dizziness, nausea, fatigue and vomiting. 

 of Motion Sickness

It’s believed that motion sickness is caused by a disturbance of the inner ear generated by repeated motion.

One theory is that motion sickness happens when the brain receives mixed messages between what the motion-sensing organs of the inner ear are sensing, what the eyes are seeing, and what the skin and other sensory receptors feel.

For instance, if you can feel motion but can’t see it, your eyes and ears will convey two conflicting messages to the brain.

Many people experience motion sickness during car rides or on ships or aircraft. Some people even suffer from motion sickness when playing video games as their eyes detect motion while their bodies are still. Thankfully, motion sickness generally stops as soon as the motion/activity stops.

Tips to Help Prevent Motion Sickness

  • Don’t travel on an empty stomach: eat a light, low- fat meal two or three hours before you leave (limit dairy and meat products, and fatty, salty 
 or spicy foods).

  • Sit in the front of a car 
 so you can see what is
 coming and anticipate
 changes in acceleration.
 This will help prevent 
the nausea-inducing mixed messages to 
your brain. 

  • On a ship, seat yourself
 near the middle of the vessel. 

  • When flying, select a seat near the wings as this area tends to have the least motion. 

  • Keep your eyes fixed on the horizon: do not read or watch fast-moving scenery. 

  • Stay away from strong odours (food, smoke and chemicals). Seek out fresh air.

Medication for Motion Sickness

Pharmacies carry over-the-counter medications that can help prevent motion sickness before it starts. Dimenhydrinate (Gravol), an over-the-counter drug available in tablet and suppository form, is effective in treating motion sickness. Take it a minimum of 30 minutes before a trip.

A scopolamine patch is available for adults by prescription: it prevents nausea for up to three days, but is not recommended for use by children or the elderly. Among natural remedies, ginger is often touted as having anti-nauseant properties, but studies remain inconclusive.

Special wristbands that exert gentle pressure on the groove between the two large tendons on the inside of the wrist also reportedly work for some people.

Before taking any medications for motion sickness, read the label as many of these drugs are not recommended for people who are pregnant, are taking certain medications or who have specific health conditions. For the best advice, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.