Help Us Help Others:

What causes motion sickness?

Nobody knows for certain what causes motion sickness, but the predominant belief is that it’s a mismatch between our visual senses and the vestibular systems in the inner ear, which help us monitor where our body is and how it’s moving in the space around us. “When one of these is telling you you’re in motion and the other one is telling you you’re sitting, the brain gets confused with the mixed signals, and it causes this sense of sickness,” says Abinash Virk, director of the travel and tropical medicine clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. (Reddy, 6-18-2013) Constant motion can therefore cause the brain’s motor control system to go haywire, since subtle but steady shifts are always occurring as the brain tries to orient itself. (Borrell, 2009)

How common is motion sickness?
It’s estimated that anywhere from 25% to 40% of the population suffers from some degree of motion sickness to at least one type of transportation, whether it be cars, flying, or sea-sickness. (Reddy, 6-18-2013) Children two and older seem to be more prone to motion sickness than are adults. Experts say this may be because a child’s senses are more acute, making them more aware of even a slight mismatch between their body-brain signals and their environment. Pregnant women are also more prone to motion sickness.

Treating & preventing motion sickness

  1. Many people assume that traveling on an empty stomach will help, but doctors say this is a common misperception. Instead they say it’s best to eat a light meal before the trip that is high in protein. Protein “really tends to get the stomach into that slow normal rhythmic activity more so than fats and carbohydrates,” says Dr. Max Levine, an associate professor of psychology at Siena College. (Reddy, 6-18-2013)

  1. Ginger root may also help to ease the symptoms of motion sickness, particularly nausea. Studies have shown taking a capsule beforehand mitigated symptoms to individuals who were then subjected to a rotating device designed to induce motion sickness better than a placebo did.

  1. Behavioral studies have found that cool compresses or gel packs placed on the forehead seem to help control physiological changes such as the abnormal rhythmic stomach activity that generally leads to nausea. This may be a placebo effect, but it’s worth trying.

  1. Some people use acupressure wrist bands when traveling to control motion sickness, and swear by their success. While these devices have not been proven effective, it may be worth trying.

  2. Dramamine is safe for most kids, but you should check with your doctor first.

  3. Travel with an extra change of clothes, wipes, and plastic bags.

Preventing motion on the trip:

  1. Try deep-breathing exercises to stay calm, which can produce physiological changes that may help motion sickness.

  1. When traveling on the road, have children focus on a fixed point on the road in front of them. Assuming your child’s old enough, sitting in the front seat also commonly helps. “Face forward in the vehicle to be as alert to what’s happening outside the vehicle as the driver would be,” says Dr. Sujana Chandrasekhari, director of New York Otology in New York City. “You want to try to match your eyes to what’s going on and what your inner ear is feeling”

  1. Travelers on a boat or other platform can significantly reduce their motion sickness simply by widening their stance. One study found that volunteers who stood with their feet 5 centimeters apart tended to get motion sickness about 60% of the time. Spreading their legs to 30 centimeters, which increases the stability of the head and torso, decreased the incidence of motion sickness to around 20%. (Borrell, 2009)

Help Us Help Others: