Motion sickness also known as travel sickness or kinetosis is a particularly distressing problem. Not only does it affect the person concerned, it also makes the co-passengers extremely uncomfortable. It is more common in children and women especially, pregnant women. Many outgrow the conditions but in a small percentage of affected people, it persists throughout life. Motion sickness can be produced by any movement via any form of transportation including motor vehicles, ships, trains, airplanes and even in playgrounds or amusement rides. Known triggers include strong smells especially fumes or the smell of petrol, smell of food etc.
Any form of repetitive angular or linear movement with acceleration or deceleration can Induce motion sickness. It is related to a dissociation of the visual stimuli which sends signals to the brain and the stimuli from the vestibular system of the inner ear along with the signals of the vibration from the musculoskeletal system. The inner ear which is responsible for maintaining a steady balance tells the brain that there is a sense of motion but the signals from the visual side which may be fixed at a relatively stationary object may imply otherwise. This confuses the brain and this mismatch Induces the typical symptoms of motion sickness.
Common symptoms of motion sickness include episodic or continuous nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, extreme weakness and fatigue. The symptoms are very disturbing and may progress to dehydration with fluid and electrolyte imbalance, fall in blood pressure and other consequences.
The symptoms are also more common in people with associated medical conditions including migraine and rarely vertigo. Motion sickness being mainly a clinical entity does not require any tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment And Prevention
Most people affected by this condition may have tried a variety of treatments for motion sickness. All interventions are more effective when used for prevention rather than after the symptoms develop. Some of the medications used for travel sickness indude Scopolamine patches over the skin applied behind the ear for long travels and over the counter drugs like Avomine, Meclizine etc. The transdermal patch of Scopalamine needs to be applied at least four hours before the planned travel and the tablets may need to be taken at least one hour before travelling. Side effects of most of these medications include sedation, dryness of the mouth and rarely, urinary retention in the elderly.
If vomiting persists, an intravenous antiemetic may be necessary. Rarely hospitalization after severe vomiting, IV fluids and correction of electrolyte imbalance is required after particularly troublesome episodes. Non-drug therapies include devices worn by the affected person. A particular acupressure device worn over the wrist is described as an affective preventive measure.
Use of dried ginger root or ginger ale, chewing on crystallized ginger candies is also recommended during travel.
Tips to Avoid Motion Sickness
- Sitting in the front seat of a motor vehicle or even being the driver. This minimizes the mismatch of the stimuli to the brain.
- During air travel try to sit towards the middle at the wings or the aisle.
- Adequate ventilation, keeping the windows down for fresh air whenever possible.
- Always keep looking at far oft objects while moving — like at the horizon, the scenery etc.
- Avoid focusing on the interiors of the vehicle. Avoid reading or playing video games because this fixation of vision can trigger the symptoms.
- Keep away from any strong unpleasant smells while travelling.
- Do not travel on an empty stomach. Avoid heavy greasy food. Small quantities of liquids, light bland food during the journey will help.
- Avoid alcohol or any other stimulants during the journey.
- Lastly the fear of the journey, the anxiety and stress anticipating the motion sickness ¡s itself enough to trigger it. So keep relaxed and calm and take your mind oft the previous unpleasant experiences.