Take the Sickness out of Motion Sickness

Sea sickness, car sickness, air sickness…all the same cause, all the same feelings…yuck. And if you are like me and have a long history of a stomach ready to churn, you might have experienced the dizziness, nausea, sweats, and energy drain of motion sickness away from traveling. I’ve felt miserable watching a 360-degree movie, twirling on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and being spun by an overly enthusiastic disco dancer.

In all cases of motion sickness, your body gets confused. The balance (vestibular) system of your inner ear gets one message and your senses (eyes, nose, and touch) get another. You have mixed signals between your inner and your outer worlds. To get back in sync, you can either change what is happening on the inside of you or on the outside.

Outside Fixes

Enjoy your cruise without motion sickness

Dampen your senses and you can muffle the signals to your ears. Close your eyes. Wear ear plugs. Avoid strong smells. Keep head movement to a minimum. Don’t read. In the car, ride in the front seat or drive. On a ship, choose a cabin in the center of a ship (larger cruise ships are more stable). On a plane, choose a window seat near the center. Opt for fresh air.

While you’re at it, look at something that’s not moving and maybe your ears will get the message. On a ship, look at the horizon. On a plane, look out the window.

Can you psych yourself out of getting sick? Maybe. Think healthy thoughts, concentrate on something fun instead of your stomach, listen to soothing music, take slow deep breaths, and stay away from others who are sick. It can be catching.

Want something more?

Some entrepreneurs have come up with gadgets to help. You may have heard about people getting their ‘sea legs,’ adjusting to the motion in time. Dr. Puma, a well-credentialed pilot/physician, has developed and sells the PUMA method, designed to acclimate your body to the rocking before you even get on a boat.

Since motion sickness deals with the ears, perhaps feeding them different sounds can help. The Nevasic audio program was so successful in treating motion sickness that the developers looked for other nausea applications. It is now sold to assist morning sickness and nausea from chemotherapy.

Watching the horizon can ease motion sickness

If you’re not in a place where you can look at something stationary, there’s an app for that. The My Horizon app displays a picture (theirs or yours) with a defined horizon that tilts along with you. The SicNoMore app employs a similar concept but uses a line and tells you the degree tilt.

Boarding Ring glasses use the same idea. The lenses encase a tilting liquid. Another optical company, XPAND vision, employs a flickering system, also used to minimize the sick feelings some experience when playing virtual reality games.

Inside Fixes

The oft-used pills and patches are in this category. Most everyone is familiar with some of the products sold for motion sickness. These pharmaceuticals, like all drugs, have at least two names. One name is generic (usually long and barely pronounceable) that is the same no matter what company makes the product. The other is the brand name the manufacturer creates, often easier to say and remember. It is important to examine the package for the generic name to figure out just what is in the box.

Understanding Meds

Motion Sickness Drugs

Back to the products…dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®) and meclizine (Bonine®) are familiar over-the-counter antihistamines marketed for motion sickness. Prescription-only hyoscine (international)/scopolamine (US) is the ingredient in Transderm-Scop®, the “patch.”

Since the usual motion meds can knock you out, you could skip right to sleeping aids. You might find that diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), zolpidem (Ambien®), or some other sleep med works for you. Maybe take alprazolam (Xanax®) or diazepam (Valium®) and you just won’t care.

For best results, most of these should be taken before the problems begin and all of them can make you drowsy, some more than others. Doctors have even more options. All of these drugs (over-the-counter or not) have side effects. If you are already taking medications and would like one of the prescription options, or you are not sure of the right med for you, be sure to talk to your doctor.

What’s in Your Stomach?

Eating Healthy can Minimize Motion Sickness

Besides using the pills or patches, you can calm the desire to empty your stomach with other tricks. Certainly what you put into your stomach in the first place matters. Start before your trip by eating light, bland, and well.

Some claim crackers and green apples will do the trick. It helps to avoid dairy, spices, sugary, and fatty foods. Avoid alcohol as well. That can upset your stomach when you are not traveling. Stay hydrated but don’t drink so much water that it sloshes around inside.

Ginger, in its many forms, has a long history as a successful treatment for motion sickness. It comes in candy, pill, tea, and other forms and is a common ingredient in many of the non-pharmaceutical products. Dramamine Naturals® claims a therapeutic dose of ginger, the product’s only ingredient.

Besides ginger, some people find peppermint (gum, oil, tic tac®, tea) and other herbal preparations helpful. Even some essential oils are marketed to stop the dizziness and nausea. Boiron, maker of homeopathic remedies, publishes a quiz to help you find a product based on your individual reaction to motion.

Sea Bands May Help

No matter what you are ingesting, or not, you can always wear a sea band. This is a wrist band, usually made of a knit fabric with a small raised plastic dot. You put the band around your forearm, centering the dot three finger-widths below your wrist on the palm side of your hand. This places the dot on the Nei-Kuan acupuncture point, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat nausea.

Onward without Motion Sickness

Ginger and Sea Bands to avoid motion sickness

I always have my sea bands packed in my travel kit and add crystalized ginger for some trips. These are my personal favorites. After doing research for this article I now have some new apps on my phone and will certainly pack more remedies. The last time I went dancing I remembered to wear my sea bands and ate some ginger. Despite the twirls, I felt well. It worked!

Additional Reading on Avoiding Motion Sickness

Fourteen Ayurvedic Home Remedies
Seasickness Tips from Cruise Critic

Follow The Healthy Traveler on MilesGeek for more tips on staying health when you travel. 

Joan Young
Joan Young

After recovering from an autoimmune blood disease, Joan has devoted the last 20 years to medical and healing education. She founded a non-profit disease support group, The Platelet Disorder Support Association, wrote a book about her illness and recovery, was a member of the American Society of Hematology, is an associate editor of the International Journal of User Driven Healthcare, writes web and social media content, and communicates with physicians and patients worldwide. Now semi-retired, she has more time to explore the world, write about her adventures, and share the wellness knowledge she has spent much of her life gathering.

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