The Best Ways to Beat Motion Sickness
Travel shouldn't be so uncomfortable.
In the United States, an estimated one in three people are highly susceptible to motion sickness—if you're one of them, you know how debilitating the condition can be. So when the holiday season comes around or summer finally arrives and you're expected to travel far distances with maximum traffic, panic often sets in.
Unfortunately, the majority of people who suffer from motion sickness have been attempting to manage it their whole lives. Symptoms may include dizziness, nausea (or worse, vomiting), clamminess, and sweating, explains Julia Blank, M.D., family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, adding that common triggers include travel by any means—car, bus, train, boat, or plane, as well as any activity with movement, especially anything involving rapid or abrupt shifts in speed or direction (think amusement park rides, like roller-coasters). The bad news is that you're unlikely to "grow out of it." The good news, however, is that there are a myriad of solutions for beating motion sickness when it strikes. Here, expert strategies for relieving those pesky symptoms during your next trip.
Focus on the far-off scenery.
In a car, you are less likely to experience motion sickness as the driver since this forces you to focus on actual driving, notes Blank. "If you're a passenger, it can help if you focus on scenery in the distance, as this can trick your brain into perceiving movement as slower and more stable," she says. Traveling by train? Consider sitting in a forward-facing seat near a window, as Blank explains that this helps "align" the motion cues you get from your eyes and body. On a ship, she recommends choosing a cabin that is on a lower deck and centrally located, as these tend to experience less motion; on a plane, consider asking for a window seat and keeping an eye on slow-moving clouds.
Avoid reading while in transit.
Trying to finish that nail-biter during a two-hour drive? It's in your best interest to avoid doing so while in a moving vehicle. "Whether you're holding a book or reading on an electronic device, the constant movement makes it difficult to focus on the text and increases the perception of instability and speed, which in turn makes motion sickness worse," says Blank.
Eat and hydrate.
Motion sickness feels worse on an empty stomach, so be sure to have something light to eat before and during travel. Avoid heavy, greasy, or acidic foods, however, since they take longer to digest, leading to heartburn and increased nausea, notes Blank. Staying hydrated will also help keep nausea in check, so be sure to fill up a water bottle before you leave.
Your mental state is believed to influence the occurrence of motion sickness, notes David Schessel, Ph.D., M.D., Chief, Division of Otolaryngology at Stony Brook Medicine, which means avoiding talk about the affliction might actually keep it at bay. And, believe it or not, you're also better off if you're the only person in the car suffering, since "associating with individuals who are experiencing motion sickness" can actually make the condition worse, notes Schessel.
"Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), and meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) can help reduce nausea associated with motion sickness, and they are also sedating—which may help you sleep through the worst of your symptoms," says Blank. However, because of the sedative effect, she warns against mixing any of these medications with other sedatives, like alcohol and prescription medications that cause sedation. And, of course, always check with your doctor before taking medicine of any kind.