Everything You Need to Know about Travel Sickness

What is Travel Sickness

For many people, the moment they get in the car or on a boat, their stomach immediately begins to feel queasy. Travel sickness, also known as motion sickness, affects about one out of every three people in the world. While there is not any scientific consensus on why some people are more susceptible to motion sickness than others, there are fortunately several natural and medical remedies to help people deal with this common, though extremely uncomfortable, health condition. Below, we offer a complete breakdown of the symptoms and causes, before going on to explain a few prevention techniques and natural and medical treatment options.

What is Travel Sickness?

Travel sickness is aptly named because most people experience the general feeling of dizziness and nausea when they are traveling in boats, cars, airplanes, or other vehicles. Travel sickness starts very quickly, often without any sort of prior warning. Besides a general feeling of queasiness, people may also feel nausea and cold sweats. In extreme cases, people may be led to vomit.

While anyone can experience travel sickness, studies have shown that children (usually under the age of six), pregnant women, and people who are taking certain types of medicines are usually those most susceptible. Furthermore, while any sort of constant motion can lead to this disease, traveling in boats, and especially smaller boats at high sea where rocking motion from the sea is constant, it is one of the most common ways people experience extreme travel sickness.

Causes of Travel Sickness

The most obvious cause of travel sickness is the constant movement that accompanies traveling in cars, planes, boats or other modes of transportation. In cars, it is much more common on winding, rural roads, than straight interstates.

On a physiological level, motion sickness or travel sickness is caused by a lack of coherence between your brain and your other senses. Your brain picks up movement signals from other parts of the body such as your joints, muscles, eyes, and inner ears. When you are in a car reading a book, your eyes are focusing on a stable object that is not moving, ie. the words on the page. Your inner ear, however, maybe sensing the motion of the vehicle and communicate that signal to your brain. When your brain receives different signals that do not match up, this can lead to a feeling of motion sickness.

Of course, certain types of strong medications can also contribute to a feeling of motion sickness through potentiating the lack of coherency in the signals that your brain perceives.

Prevention Techniques

The best way to prevent travel sickness or motion sickness is through trying to reduce the conflicting signals that your body sends to your brain. This can be done by reducing the amount of sensory input that is coming into your brain. For children, instead of having them watch movies or play games on the phone while in the car, encouraging them to stare out the window at distant objects is one of the best strategies.

Furthermore, choosing where you sit in the car, plane, or boat can also make a difference. The front seats of a car or train usually experience much less movement and bouncing and the upper deck of a boat is also generally calmer. Wing seats in a plane also give the sensation of less turbulence and allow you to focus your vision on distant objects which can have a calming effect.

Treatment Options 

Once travel sickness does set in and you begin to feel queasy, nauseous, and dizzy, there are several different ways to deal with the discomfort. Ginger and peppermint candies have both been proven to offer relief for motion sickness. If you regularly suffer from motion sickness, using an aromatherapy diffuser is another way to calm feelings of nausea. Ginger, peppermint, and chamomile essential oils diffused in the car or on the boat will certainly help to reduce the feeling of nausea. Similarly, taking a Thermos flask full of chamomile or peppermint tea can also help to soothe your stomach while traveling.

For serious cases of travel sickness or motion sickness, cyclizine is an antihistamine that has been specifically developed to help people deal with the feelings of nausea and vomiting that come with travel sickness. This medicine can be taken as a preventative measure an hour or two before expected travel.

Though motion sickness can certainly be a debilitating condition, with the right amount of prevention and treatment options, most people are able to travel without any symptoms.

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