Motion Sickness During a Family Trip: How to Avoid It

Let’s face it, a sure way to spoil the excitement of a family road trip is that little voice coming from the back seat, “I don’t feel good.” Parents know what usually comes next. Adults also commonly experience motion sickness. Whether in a car, on an airplane, or during a fun-filled cruise ship, you or your child may experience nausea and vomiting. Here are some tips for dealing with motion sickness during family trips.

Key takeaways:

Motion sickness: Causes & symptoms

Motion sickness occurs when your brain receives conflicting signals from your eyes, inner ear, or body movements. An example of how your brain can be confused is when you are spinning around with your eyes closed. Your inner ear and body are sending signals to your brain that you are moving, but your eyes are not. The mismatched signals, also known as sensory conflict, can cause brain confusion that leads to motion sickness.

The most common symptoms of motion sickness are:

  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

It can have a gradual onset with a feeling of queasiness, or it can start suddenly with immediate dizziness and nausea, likely resulting in throwing up.

Some people only experience mild symptoms of motion sickness, while others may have prolonged, severe symptoms that can include the inability to stand up or excessive vomiting.

How long does motion sickness last?

Motion sickness can pass quickly on its own but may last for a few hours. At times, the effects can linger for several days, even if a person is motionless. Symptoms can go away but may end up returning. It’s not uncommon for people who have been on a boat or cruise ship to feel like they are still rocking days after they return to dry land.

Tips to avoid motion sickness when traveling

When you start to prepare for your upcoming trip, consider adding motion sickness prevention to your to-do list. It’s better to be prepared than to deal with unexpected vomit. Having items readily available to deal with motion sickness will be helpful in the long run.

Purchase some vomit bags to keep in your car or baggage so you can be prepared for nausea and vomiting. Being able to catch and contain throw-up will avoid the need to pause your travels to clean up a mess. Vomit bags can also alleviate some of the embarrassment of throwing up on a plane, train, or boat.

The following are some ways to help prevent motion sickness:

  • Don’t read or watch videos while moving. If your eyes are focused on text or a screen, they send signals to your brain that you are not in motion. However, your body and inner ear will sense the movements creating sensory conflict and possible motion sickness.
  • Face the direction you are moving. Avoid turning your head or body to the side. Many children enjoy looking out the window, but if they start to feel queasy, advise them to look straight ahead, resulting in a decreased sensory disconnect.
  • Take snacks with you. Crackers have long been used to treat nausea during pregnancy and illness. The dry, crunchy, salty, and easily digested food can help curve those queasy feelings. Overeating or indulging in heavy, greasy foods can increase the likelihood of nausea and vomiting. It’s better to eat smaller meals and snacks while traveling.
  • Try ginger. The herb ginger has been used to treat nausea and gastrointestinal upset since ancient times. Drinking ginger ale not only gives you the benefits of ginger but also the carbonated liquid can ease nausea. You can purchase ginger candies or gummies online or at local supermarkets.
  • Cool, fresh air. When someone starts to feel nauseous, having cool air blowing on their face can help reduce the sensation. Turn on the air conditioning, roll down the window, or use something to fan air into their face.

Medications to treat nausea

There are medications available to help prevent and treat motion sickness, and they can be prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter. Some of the medicines include the following:

  • Antihistamines. The two common antihistamines used for motion sickness are dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Both medications are available for children. They may cause drowsiness. Antihistamines can be purchased as rectal suppositories in case ongoing vomiting is a problem and oral medications can not be used.
  • Patches. Transdermal scopolamine patches are placed behind the ear, slowly administering the anti-nausea medication through the surface of the skin. Scopolamine is only used in children older than 12 years.
  • Motion sickness wristbands. The wristbands work by using acupuncture at the P6 or Neiguan point of the wrist. Putting pressure on this point can help reduce nausea and vomiting.

Motion sickness is very common, and most people have felt it at some point in their life. It may not always result in throwing up, but it can be severe for some. Taking steps to prevent motion sickness and planning ahead to have resources readily available will make the experience more manageable.

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