Causes and Treatment of Motion Sickness

Causes and Treatment of Motion Sickness | By Anthony Leger

While some people are much more susceptible to motion sickness than others, anyone can suffer from it, and most have experienced at least mild symptoms in their lives. However, by taking precautions, the incidence and severity of motion sickness can be reduced.

The causes of motion sickness

The misery of motion sickness is basically caused by the body being confused. To determine where it is, the body is constantly checking visual, touch and inner ear information (which registers balance) as well as expectations. When these information sources give contradictory information, the body experiences the symptoms of sea sickness.

For example, as the inner ear is being jostled when riding over rough waves, it signals the body it is off balance when it really is not. Or, when the eyes are reading a book in a car, the eyes are telling the body it is still while the bumps and other motions of the car are giving the inner ear contradictory signals. From this disagreement, which is human body is not evolved to deal with well, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms of motion system emerge.


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Avoiding motion sickness

As a general rule: the greater the motion the worse the sickness so anything one can do to reduce the motion will help. For example sitting in the middle of the plane or boat were the motion is less will help. First and foremost is to reconcile the contradictory feelings of motion and standing still by reducing the difference as much as possible.

While it is good to keep one’s eyes gazing at the horizon, they should never be fixed on any one point. For this reason, one should never read, look through binoculars, stare at a compass or do anything that keeps the eyes fixed on one location with little movement.

Do not eat large quantities of food or drink lots of liquids beforehand since the feeling of food or drink sloshing around the stomach amplifies the feeling of motion. However, one should have something in their stomach (apart from spicy or other foods that might irritate it) so consume moderately.

Since lack of sleep and dehydration will make symptoms worse, avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water while getting lots of sleep before activities that might cause motion sickness.

Getting fresh air also helps many people so it is a good idea to be on deck. Being on deck has the added benefit of reducing visual conflicts that cause sea sickness.

There is also a psychological aspect to getting sick so one should keep their mind busy with other thoughts as much as possible.

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Medications and the long term

Gingerroot has long been used to reduce sea sickness, and there are now various products on the market which help too. Dramamine and Bonine are some of the most popular. These usually need to be taken beforehand to be effective.

Wrist bands, which provide a kind of acupressure above the wrist, seem to help many and sell well.

Over time, people develop “sea legs” and are less susceptible to getting motion sickness. There are exercises people can do to help develop these sea legs even when on land. While these are beyond the scope of this article, anyone who is susceptible to getting sea sickness might save themselves a lot of misery on their next trip by studying and performing those exercises.

As of yet, there does not appear to be any magic bullet to stop motion sickness so it will likely continue to afflict unfortunate travelers for the foreseeable future.

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