Travel sickness is when you feel sick while traveling by car, plane, boat, or train. It is also known as motion sickness as well as air sickness, car sickness, and seasickness. Motion sickness can affect anyone but is especially prevalent in children, with more than 40% of schoolchildren suffering from the condition, according to this study. Feeling unwell while traveling can put a damper on your holiday, and it can also impact your commutes to work or school. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent travel sickness or help you if you do feel ill.
What is travel sickness?
Motion or travel sickness is caused by repeated movements, usually while you are in a moving vehicle. These might include the motion of a boat passing over waves or a car moving over bumps or along curves on the road. Repetitive movements like these cause your inner ear to send signals to your brain that differ from what your eyes see. These conflicting signals are what cause you to feel ill. For example, your eyes tell you that you are in a moving car, but your vestibular system thinks you are sitting still. Motion sickness can also happen while on amusement rides as well as while watching certain films or playing computer games.
Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Early warning signs include an increase in saliva, pale skin, and a cold sweat. You might also experience headaches, drowsiness, and changes in your breathing, such as rapid and shallow breathing. Often, your body adapts, and the symptoms go away as your journey progresses.
Tips for avoiding motion sickness
Feeling unwell while traveling on a ship or car does not have to ruin your trip. There are several things you can do to avoid motion sickness. For example, try to not:
- Look at moving objects, including passing cars
- Eat heavy meals before or while you are traveling
- Eat spicy foods or drink alcohol before or during your trip
- Read a book while in a moving vehicle
- Use electronic devices to read, stream or browse while in motion
If you are already feeling unwell during your trip, there are things you can do to ease nausea and other symptoms. Tips to prevent travel sickness symptoms include:
- Using ginger (found to work well against nausea), either as a tablet such as a supplement or in a biscuit or tea
- Distracting yourself by listening to music, talking to others, or doing mental tasks like counting, which also help you relax
- Sitting at the front of a car or the middle of a boat or plane to reduce motion
- Focusing, for example, on a fixed point like looking ahead at the horizon or closing your eyes and focus on your breathing
- Taking breaks, especially while in a car, and going for a walk or to get fresh air
- Improving ventilation, including opening a window where possible to get fresh and cool air
- Staying calm and trying not to think about getting sick
- Keeping hydrated during your trip by drinking water
If you experience severe or regular motion sickness, your doctor can help you find remedies that work best for your symptoms. There are several options available that help prevent feeling unwell. These include taking tablets such as antihistamines or hyoscine, which are often available from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription. Patches that help you avoid motion sickness are also available. These medications are effective when taken before your journey. Another option is acupressure bands on your wrists, although these may not be effective for everyone.
Motion sickness can be manageable. Something as simple as avoiding certain foods, getting fresh air, or taking a ginger supplement can go a long way to alleviating and even preventing feeling unwell during your journey.