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Motion (Travel) Sickness

motion sickness


Motion sickness (travel sickness) is common, especially in children. It is caused by repeated unusual movements during travelling. These repeated movements, such as going over bumps or round in a circle, causes the symptom of nausea because of the confusing signals received from the eye and the inner ear. Other symptoms you may experience include sweating, drooling saliva, headaches, feeling cold and going pale.

Motion sickness can also be triggered by anxiety or strong smells, such as food or petrol. Sometimes trying to read a book or a map can trigger motion sickness.

How can motion sickness be prevented?

  1. Keep motion to a minimum. For example, sit in the front of a car, over the wing of a plane.
  2. Breathe fresh air if possible. For example, open a car window.
  3. Close your eyes and try to sleep.
  4. Do not read or watch a film.
  5. It is advisable not to stare at moving objects such as waves or other cars. Instead, look ahead, a little above the horizon, at a fixed place.
  6. Avoid heavy meals or alcohol before, and during, travelling.

What is the treatment for motion sickness?

There are several medicines available which can reduce, or prevent, symptoms of motion sickness. They work by interfering with the nerve signals described above. Although they are best taken before the journey, they still may help even if you take them after symptoms have begun. Some medicines used for motion sickness may cause drowsiness.

Hyoscine

This is the most effective medicine for motion sickness. It works by preventing the confusing nerve messages going to your brain. You should take a dose 30-60 minutes before a journey and the effect can last up to 72 hours. Side-effects of hyoscine are uncommon but include dry mouth, drowsiness and blurred vision.

Antihistamines

These medicines can also be useful, although they are not quite as effective as hyoscine. However, they usually cause fewer side-effects. There are several types of antihistamine. Some cause drowsiness - for example, promethazine, which may be of use for young children on long journeys. Older children or adults may prefer one that is less likely to cause drowsiness - for example, cinnarizine.

 

Alternative treatments

  1. On long journeys, it may be worth breaking the journey to have some fresh air, drink some cold water and if possible, take a short walk.
  2. One technique that has been shown to work in a clinical trial is to breathe deeply and slowly and, while focusing on your breathing, listen to music.
  3. Ginger can improve motion sickness in some people. It can be eaten in a biscuit or as crystallised ginger, drunk as tea or taken as tablets before a journey

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