A Guide to Dealing with Motion Sickness When Travelling

While motion sickness is certainly not a life-threatening disease or condition, it can be a menace if it ruins a perfectly planned holiday. Motion sickness can affect anyone, even people who have never suffered from the condition before. Children under the age of 12, pregnant women, and people with a history of migraines can be especially prone to the condition.

What is Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is a blanket term that can alternatively refer to seasickness, car sickness, or airsickness. Caused by mixed signals in the body’s balance system, motion sickness occurs when motion interpreted by the brain, via sight and visual cues, is mismatched with those detected by the motion-sensing components of the inner ear, also known as the vestibular system.

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What are the Symptoms of Motion Sickness?

There are a range of symptoms associated with motion sickness, with some being more serious than others. However, each individual’s symptoms may differ – and people affected by motion sickness may experience any or all of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Excessive production of saliva and/or drooling
  • Shortness of breath
  • A feeling of discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Excessive burping

Naturally, most of these symptoms are unpleasant. However, the most serious side effect of motion sickness is vomiting, as it can lead to dehydration. Often, the dehydration can be so severe that an individual may avoid all food and liquids altogether, due to the discomfort and nausea they may be experiencing.

Treating and Preventing Motion Sickness

While motion sickness in the form of airsickness or carsickness is unlikely to ruin an entire vacation, seasickness on a long cruise could. Thus, it is important that individuals who suffer from motion sickness, or have never been on a cruise before invest in a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers the cost of any medical treatment onboard the cruise.

Moreover, the policy should also include a cancelation option, in the event that all or part of the trip is canceled due to seasickness. Unfortunately, private health insurance often doesn’t cover the cost of medical treatment received onboard cruise liners, even if the ship has never entered international waters.

There are a few simple yet effective remedies to prevent or minimize the effects of motion sickness, some of which include:

  • Sitting (or standing) facing forward wherever possible: focus on the horizon, or on a fixed, stationary object in the distance.
  • Trying to sit in the front passenger seat of a car or moving vehicle.
  • Choosing seats near the wings on a plane, or cabins near the center of a ship, since these are often least exposed to motion.
  • Keeping your eyes closed, or lying down with your head as still as possible.
  • Abstaining from reading or using mobile devices during the trip, as this can worsen symptoms.
  • Chewing gum has proven a highly effective remedy for some people, as has chewing a small piece of ginger, or sucking on a ginger-flavored lozenge. However, much like acupressure bands, this may not work for everyone.
  • Exposing yourself to fresh air and avoiding sharp or strong smells has also been known to be quite effective. Naturally, this is sometimes not possible on a plane - in which case, try standing up if you feel queasy

Only the most severe cases require medical intervention, although this should be a last resort as the side effects of most motion sickness-alleviating medications include drowsiness as well as dizziness. Furthermore, many medications need to be taken prior to the start of the trip or before the onset of symptoms, which doesn’t work for those who have never experienced motion sickness before.

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Last updated: Mar 28, 2019 at 8:06 AM


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