Tips to stop motion sickness before it starts

You’re on the move. Feeling dizzy? Fatigued? Nauseous?

Motion sickness is a common problem that can make even the simple task of riding in a car, train, plane or boat a stressful event.

There are several parts of the body that combine to let the brain know that your body is moving. When one part of the balance-sensing system – comprised of your eyes, inner ear and sensory nerves – detects movement, but the others do not, motion sickness can occur, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Anticipating symptoms and taking measures to prevent them is much more effective than trying to resolve symptoms that are already occurring,” says Jean-Marie Tyner, an advanced practice nurse and certified nurse practitioner with Advocate Medical Group in Lexington, Ill. “Once symptoms start, it may be hard to feel better until the movement stops.”

Tyner suggests these tips for preventing motion sickness:

  • Focus on an “earth-fixed” environment rather than a “head-fixed” environment. “Viewing the horizon or land masses from the deck of a ship or from the front seat of a car, for example, can reduce or prevent symptoms,” she says.
  • Medications, if used, should be taken before symptoms occur, since they are less effective in relieving symptoms that have already developed.
  • Antihistamines can be useful, but the newer, non-drowsy ones are typically less effective.

These tips from the CDC may also help travelers avoid motion sickness:

  • When traveling, sit near the front of the vehicle by a window and focus on the horizon.
  • Try to move your head as little as possible by resting it on a headrest. Head movement can increase motion sickness.
  • If on a boat, try to get fresh air while looking at a fixed point on the horizon.
  • Avoid eating or drinking during short trips to reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Do not drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before traveling.

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