Travel sickness: here’s how to counteract it

Is going by boat or car a nightmare? Maybe you suffer from motion sickness.

Traveling can be a nightmare for motion sickness sufferers. But preventing the appearance of symptoms of so-called “transport sickness” is possible. Here’s what it is and what to do to counteract it.

In medical terms it is called motion sickness or motion sickness. It is a syndrome (ie a set of symptoms) caused by the movements passively impressed on our body during the stay on systems that move with a certain speed, especially when the latter is not constant and the path is not linear, but characterized by curves, climbs, descents or oscillations of various types.

This is what happens when we are on any means of transport, such as car, ship or plane (but also by train, tram and so on). There are, in practice, motion sickness for every vehicle: the most classic cases are seasickness, car sickness and airplane sickness. Even abrupt changes in atmospheric pressure, such as those that occur during take-off or landing in an airplane or helicopter, or in a cable car, can create significant inconveniences even if of short duration.

However, any other means capable of producing displacements in space, such as rides or swings, can give motion sickness in those who climb them. And that’s not all. Motion sickness also includes disorders that arise in some people who are particularly sensitive to the simple vision, provided it is sufficiently prolonged, of certain movements.

In fact, there are also those who feel bad just seeing a boat in rough waters, a car or a train moving at a different speed than the vehicle on which you are or the images of films produced with particular techniques, such as the shooting with moving camera of “The Closer” (hand or shoulder camera) or the latest 3D technologies.

In these cases, a contrast is created in the brain between the movement stimuli that come from the eyes and the information of absence of movement that comes from the sense organs of the rest of the body, in particular from the sensory receptors present at the level of muscles and joints (proprioceptors) and from the balance system housed in the inner ear (vestibular system).

Although these may be, as we have seen, very different situations, the mechanism underlying motion sickness is always the same, and rather complex.

Very briefly, it can be said that the movement stimulates the vestibular apparatus (a system of bone canals and very articulated membranous and nervous structures, present in the deepest part of the ear), responsible for detecting body movements and controlling balance. When the stimulation of these delicate structures is too rapid or excessive, or in some more sensitive people, the manifestations of motion sickness appear.

At first it is a generalized malaise

Usually, motion sickness sufferers have an initial perception of general malaise, accompanied by the feeling of “weight in the stomach”; followed by the appearance of pallor and sweating and an increase in salivation; In addition, breathing becomes more frequent, there is nausea and, often, even vomiting and dizziness. Headache and some mental confusion may also appear.

As a rule, the symptomatology of “movement disease” resolves quickly as soon as the stimulation of the central nervous system that produced it ceases, although sometimes some residual fatigue may remain for one or two hours. However, since it is a very annoying experience, it would be better to anticipate by adopting a series of measures for its prevention, especially if you plan to make long journeys.

To suffer more often from the disorder are mainly children between 2 and 12 years, who generally tend to experience it in a less and less intense way towards the end of the pediatric age, until they see it disappear completely during adolescence. However, in some cases, motion sickness may persist even as adults, or recur after several years in which traveling on any means of transport had not caused any problem.

To experience motion sickness in adulthood are mainly people who have a vestibular apparatus already sensitized by the predisposition to labyrinthitis or migraine. In these cases, even just a curve taken a little too fast or the repetition of two or three hairpin bends, or a route in city traffic that requires the alternation of acceleration and abrupt blocks can create considerable problems. To manage these forms it is advisable to consult a specialist in otolaryngology or a neurologist with specific skills.

Although the symptomatology of “movement disease” can be very annoying and the malaise significant, you should not be afraid of it for two reasons:

  1. Fear contributes to increasing the manifestations of motion sickness because it alters breathing and causes additional stimulation on the central nervous system
  2. Motion sickness is a benign disease, which ends spontaneously and does not give rise to complications of any kind.

On the contrary, trying not to think about the possible annoyances that may arise during the trip (neither before nor, as far as possible, after having undertaken it), can help to feel less bad.

Yes and no so as not to feel bad

Here are some tips that can help you live more serene journeys: they are valid for everyone, even for those who generally do not suffer from motion sickness:

What to do What to avoid
Before traveling, eat light meals low in fat and sugar Too large meals or absolute fasting, before departure
During the trip, drink in moderation, preferably plain water Carbonated, acidic or stimulant drinks; milk (just before and during the trip)
At the onset of the first symptoms, take a light snack based on dry foods such as breadsticks, crackers or rusks; let fresh air in through the window; Distract yourself by listening to music Soft and acidic foods (such as fruit); heating or air conditioning too high; Abrupt movements
Adopt positions that are as comfortable and relaxed as possible; breathe slowly and thoroughly to improve ventilation Tension and stress; positions that compress the abdomen
In the car (but also in buses and trams) prefer the front seat, sit in the direction of travel (or in any case with head and torso facing forward) and on the side of the window Sitting in the direction of travel or in the last rows (subject to greater oscillations during movement, especially when cornering)
During the journey, assume a supine position with the head in the direction of travel (only possible in the cabin on the ship or on a vehicle where you can have enough space) Smoking, both active and passive, while traveling
Keep your neck erect and your gaze directed forward, without moving or rotating your head too much During the journey, limit visual stimuli: do not carry out activities that are very visually demanding (such as reading) or that involve fixing the gaze on mobile landmarks (for example, watching movies on the tablet or nearby means of transport that are also moving)

Help from medicines

For those who constantly suffer from motion sickness, prevention is certainly better than cure. To do it in a simple and safe way, there are several preparations with essentially antihistamine, anticholinergic or tranquilizing action that counteract the appearance of unpleasant symptoms.

Generally, they should be taken half an hour before departure, except for formulations in chewing gum (to be used at the appearance of the first symptoms) and for those proposed in the form of patches to be applied two hours before.

Be careful, however: most of these drugs, which can be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription, tend to promote sleep and decreased alertness. They must not, therefore, be used by those who drive (who, however, usually need less than a passenger) or by those who must use potentially dangerous vehicles or tools.

In addition, if you suffer from other known diseases or are taking other drugs, before resorting to an antiquarian it is essential to seek advice from your doctor to avoid possible drug interactions and related adverse events.

Natural remedies

For those who prefer natural remedies, different homeopathic products can also be useful. Experts recommend, in particular, granules of Cocculus, Petroleum and Tabacum, to be taken between meals (10-15 minutes before or 2-3 hours after), leaving them to dissolve under the tongue (method of intake fundamental for the effectiveness of the remedy).

Among the herbal remedies there are, however, preparations based on ginger or lemon.

Supplements, especially vitamin B6 and vitamins K and C, also play a role, which can alleviate the feeling of nausea.

Finally, there are elastic bracelets, which can also be used by those who cannot take antikinethotic drugs. These are elastic bands to be applied at the level of the wrist that, through a button, press on a point indicated by acupuncture as effective against nausea.

This point is located four centimeters from the fold of the wrist and, if stimulated, reduces nausea and promotes relaxation; the sailors of ancient China, used similar bracelets to counteract the effects of rough seas, but today there are also several scientific confirmations of the effectiveness of these products.

Future mothers are more sensitive

Women in “pregnant” can find themselves in a condition of temporary predisposition to develop a state of transport malaise.

Anxiety about motherhood and the health of the baby, but also the objective difficulty in finding a comfortable position in confined spaces can cause travel inconvenience even in those who had never had problems before pregnancy.

It goes without saying that the intake of any medication to combat travel sickness should be evaluated with caution by future mothers and carried out only after seeking medical advice.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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