Motion sickness occurs when the brain gets mixed signals from the body’s motion sensors in the inner ears, eyes and nerves of the extremities.
Anyone can become motion sick, but it’s more common among children ages 2 through 12, pregnant women, and people who get migraine headaches.
A little planning can help prevent the nausea and vomiting of motion sickness. Here are some things to try before or after you encounter that twisty road, choppy water or bumpy flight:
- Sit where motion is felt less. Drive or sit in a car’s front passenger seat; on a cruise, reserve a cabin in the middle of the ship; and on a plane, sit over the wing.
- Skip the book. Close-up tasks such as reading or playing a handheld videogame make motion sickness worse. “Face forward, and look toward a more stationary object on the far horizon,” says Dorothy Herron, director of the nursing degree program at Wingate (N.C.) University.
- Snack lightly. “About 15 minutes before leaving, have a light snack of bland, non-fatty, carbohydrate food, such as a couple of saltine crackers,” Herron says. Nibbling a cracker also may help settle your stomach once you’ve started to feel queasy.
- Consider ginger. Some studies suggest that taking about 1 gram of ginger may help. The easiest way to get this much ginger is in a supplement, taken 30 to 60 minutes before traveling. Talk to your doctor first if you’re pregnant or taking blood-thinning medication.
- Press your wrist. Some research suggests that stimulating the point inside of your forearm, about 2 inches from the wrist crease and between two tendons, may relieve motion sickness. Special wristbands are sold that stimulate the point with a slight electrical current, or press on it with a small plastic ball.
- Consider medication. If the above steps aren’t enough, ask your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription medicine.
The biggest drawback of over-the-counter antihistamines that are used to prevent or treat motion sickness is side effects, including drowsiness. Dry mouth is among the side effects of the prescription skin patch used to prevent motion sickness.
If you’re traveling by car, “drive if you can,” says Dorothy Herron, a professor of nursing who suffers from car and sea sickness herself. Driving “keeps your eyes focused in the direction of travel and helps your body unconsciously adjust to ups and downs,” she says.