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What is Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is a nauseous sensation brought about by movement. It is a common occurrence when travelling in cars, planes, trains, boats or any other mode of transportation. Alternatively, it can also take place while on amusement rides or be triggered by looking at movement from other people or things.

While motion sickness does not pose a life-threatening concern and does not require a health screening under normal circumstances, it is still very unpleasant to experience. Therefore, a better understanding of motion sickness, as well as its causes and triggers, can help prevent or reduce its effects.

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs due to conflicting senses. The motion-sensing parts of your body, such as the eyes, muscles, and inner ears, send signals to your brain.

If the brain were to receive signals that conflict with each other, it would struggle to compute whether the body is moving or stationary. This would then lead to a feeling of nausea.

For example, when a person is riding in a car, the eyes, as well as the inner ears, would sense movement. However, the muscles would sense that the body is stationary. The brain would then receive contradicting senses which would then lead to the individual feeling sick,

What are the common symptoms?

Symptoms of motion sickness can occur instantaneously and are capable of worsening relatively fast. A person with motion sickness may experience symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Cold sweat
  • Pale skin
  • Increased production of saliva
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shallow breathing
  • Difficulty maintaining balance

How is it diagnosed?

Motion sickness is generally a self-resolving illness and does not require a formal diagnosis to be made. Because the sickness only happens during travel or other specified activities, most individuals would be able to recognise the symptoms when they occur.

However, if your doctor or healthcare provider suspects something more serious, they may ask you to describe your symptoms as well as perform a few physical exams.

What treatments are available?

There are multiple treatments or medications for preventing or treating motion sickness. These treatments include:

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines are prescribed for allergies, but they can also be used to combat motion sickness and alleviate symptoms. However, only antihistamines that induce drowsiness can treat motion sickness. Formulas that don’t induce drowsiness won’t be effective.
  • Scopolamine patches: Scopolamine patches or oral tablets are used to treat nausea and vomiting. These patches at to be placed behind the ears approximately 4 hours before travelling. The patch can be removed after 3 days and to be replaced with a new one if needed. However, this drug is only for adults as it may induce dry mouth.

Alternatively, some natural remedies are also known to help with motion sickness. Such remedies include:

  • Raw ginger: There has been scientific evidence that suggests that ginger roots, which have long been used as a traditional treatment for nausea, is effective. It may, however, have unwanted blood-thinning effects. Therefore, speak to a doctor before using it.
  • Mint: Peppermint is known to have calming effects on the body. Even the aroma itself may help relieve the symptoms of nausea. If you are experiencing motion sickness, you can try drinking some peppermint tea to help alleviate the symptoms.

How can you avoid or prevent motion sickness?

Plan ahead if you are prone to motion sickness when travelling. These methods can help you avoid it or manage the symptoms:

  • Take your medication in advance (1 to 2 hours before) prior to travelling. However, avoid taking them when driving if they are known to cause drowsiness.
  • Get lots of air. When in a car, roll down the window or use the air conditioner. On an aircraft, direct the vent to face you. If you’re on a covered boat, try sitting next to a window.
  • Avoid reading when travelling. Try looking out the window while focusing on a distant object.
  • Lie down when you begin to feel nauseous.
  • Avoid having a large meal before or while travelling as well as food that are acidic oily or spicy.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid consuming alcohol.

Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist for more than a few days.