Motion sickness

Medicine to feel well again
Motion sickness

What do we mean by motion sickness?

Nausea, vomiting, dizziness – so-called motion sickness (kinetosis) can seriously dampen travelling adventures. It includes all symptoms, which count as a reaction of the body to unusual movements and accelerations.

One differentiates between different forms of the illness, depending on the mode of transport causing the symptoms

  • Travel sickness (cars, buses, trains)
  • Sea-sickness (boats) and
  • Air sickness (airplanes)

Nearly everyone has been motion-sick at least once in their lives. In 90 percent of the cases, the symptoms disappear automatically, as soon as the body is no longer exposed to the movement. Furthermore, the body often gets used to the unusual movement after some time, which will usually lesson some of the symptoms.

In case of sea-sickness, the body usually gets used to the movement after three to four days and the sea-sickness symptoms lessen automatically.

Not all people are equally sensitive towards motion sickness

  • Around 5 to 10 percent of all people are very sensitive
  • Around 75 percent are “normal” and
  • 5 to 15 percent are relatively unaffected
  • Women tend to be more affected by motion sickness than men, especially at the start of a period or during pregnancy. It is thought that hormones may have an effect.
  • Babies do not usually suffer from motion sickness, as their organ of equilibrium in the inner ear has not been developed completely at this stage.
  • Kinetosis occurs most often between the ages of 2 and 12.
  • From the age of 50, it occurs less often.

What causes motion sickness?

The causes of motion sickness are unusual movements and accelerations, such as

  • Driving cars on windy roads
  • Turbulence in the air
  • Heavy waves on a boat

Unusual movements can confuse the brain. When travelling by car, for example, the nerves and receptors in the muscles do not register any movement, as the body is sitting still. But the eyes are registering quick movement. The organ of equilibrium in the inner ear, on the other hand, provides information in regards to corners, accelerations or increases, which are in conflict with the first two notifications. These conflicting notifications cause a healthy organ of equilibrium to overload, which is then interpreted by the brain as a dangerous situation. Consequently, stress hormones are being released, which cause symptoms of dizziness and nausea.

Motion sickness is not a sickness in the purest meaning of the word, but rather a natural reaction to unusual influences. Psychological factors, such as fearful expectation, can also play a big role in regards to the occurrence of kinetosis, or even worsen the symptoms.

What symptoms occur in case of motion sickness?

The symptoms may differ from person to person and may also vary in regards to the severity of the motion sickness.

Possible symptoms in case of mild motion sickness

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Yawning
  • Breaking out in a sweat
  • Increased saliva

Possible symptoms in case of medium-severe motion sickness

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Hyperventilation

Possible symptoms in case of severe motion sickness

  • Vomiting
  • Subjective perception of being very ill
  • Apathy

Motion sickness, which occurs over a longer period of time, should be taken seriously, as vomiting carries a risk of life-threatening circulatory collapse due to loss of fluids. This applies especially in regards to people suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

How can motion sickness be diagnosed?

The diagnosis is often unambiguous, as the symptoms occur in distinctive situations – such as on a boat or in a car – where they occur repeatedly. Mild to medium-severe symptoms may often be identified by the persons affected or fellow travellers themselves.

In case of severe symptoms, however, it is important for a doctor to analyze the circumstances and to ensure that the person is not suffering from an infection, poisoning or another illness, which could cause vomiting and circulatory collapse.

How can motion sickness be treated?

The symptoms of so-called motion sickness can be treated in various ways. It is best to react immediately upon occurrence of the first symptoms. There are certain types of behavior for each type of motorized movement, which can lessen the occurrence of motion sickness:

Car

  • Drive the vehicle yourself, where possible
  • As a passenger, look at the road or a fixed point in the horizon
  • Do not read whilst travelling in a car
  • Take regular breaks, and try and get some fresh air

Bus

  • Try and sit in the middle or in the front of the bus, where the bus swings less
  • Fix your gaze onto a fixed point in the horizon

Train

  • Try and face the direction of travel and fix your gaze onto a fixed point on the horizon when looking out the window
  • Regularly walk up and down the aisle

Airplane

  • Sit near the isle and close to the wings where possible
  • Regularly walk up and down the aisle

Boat

  • Choose a cabin or a seat in the middle of the ship, either just above sea level or on deck (fresh air, possibility of moving around)
  • Move with the ship and do not lean against the movement

In case of severe cases of motion sickness:

  • Lie flat on your back
  • Hold your head still
  • Close your eyes (this means that optical stimuli will be taken away from your perception, which reduces the number of conflicting stimuli).
  • If this is not possible, you should sit down and fix your gaze onto a fixed point in the horizon.

Medication

You can take medication to lesson the symptoms of motion sickness – it is best to take them as soon as symptoms occur. If motion sickness is a reoccurring problem, it is recommended to take the medication some time before starting the journey.

In order to treat and prevent the occurrence of motion sickness, you could, for example, use the substance Dimenhydrinate, which is available at pharmacies in the form of tablets, pills, capsules or chewing gum.

Alternatively, you could consider the following options

  • Acupressure and magnet wristbands
  • High doses of vitamin C
  • Ginger (recommendation: 500mg every four hours)

Tips in case of motion sickness

These tips may help you to prevent motion sickness

  • Start your journey well rested and in a relaxed manner
  • Try and sleep whilst traveling (when we sleep, our sense of balance is “turned off”)
  • Try and eat light food rich in carbohydrates and low in fat – both a full and an empty stomach can have an adverse affect in regards to motion sickness
  • Do not drink alcohol, coffee or smoke cigarettes
  • Avoid strong smells, such as diesel or food
  • Listen to music
  • Do not read whilst travelling

Sources:

http://www.onmeda.de/reisen/reisekrankheit.html
http://www.netdoktor.at/krankheit/reisekrankheit-7427
http://www.onmeda.de/reisen/reisekrankheit-ursachen-1023-2.html
http://www.onmeda.de/reisen/reisekrankheit-symptome-1023-3.html
http://www.netdoktor.de/krankheiten/reisekrankheit/
http://www.onmeda.de/reisen/reisekrankheit-therapie-1023-4.htm

Note:

You may find additional information in regards to the effects and possible side effects by consulting the instructions, your doctor or pharmacist.