Travel sickness or motion sickness is the sensation of feeling sick, or actually being sick, as the result of movement. Lots of people experience this while travelling in a car, boat or plane or even on fairground and playground rides.
Under normal travel conditions, it is estimated that about a third of the population can be affected by travel sickness. If conditions become extreme, for example a very rough sea crossing, almost everyone can be affected, even experienced sailors. Men and women are affected equally, but it is particularly common in children especially when travelling on long journeys.
- Pale skin
- Cold sweat
- Increased saliva production
- Rapid breathing
- Pale skin
- Cold sweat
- Drowsiness & fatigue
What causes travel sickness?
Motion sickness is thought to occur due to a conflict of information between the senses. So for example your eyes are telling you that you are travelling fast in a car but your vestibular system (the nerves and fluids in your ear) note that you are sitting still.
The vestibular system is a bit like a spirit-level in your ears - it’s made up of nerves, channels and fluids. The fluids change position as you move and transmit information about your changed position to your brain. This allows you to maintain your balance.
But once the information seems mismatched this disturbs your sense of balance leaving your head swimming, resulting in feelings of nausea.
How is travel sickness treated?
A number of medicines can help ease or prevent travel sickness - all are best taken before you set off on your journey. The two medicines used are: antihistamines and anticholinergics (usually ‘hyoscine’). Both work by reducing the messages from the ear and the gut to the brain.
Most travel sickness medications are available without prescription. Some are unsuitable for young children, and some antihistamines cause drowsiness so are unsuitable if you are driving. Consult your pharmacist for advice on the best choice. For adults and children over the age of 10 who are unable to swallow tablets, or who cannot keep anything down, hyoscine is available as a patch that can be applied to the skin and give protection for up to 72 hours.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
- Some simple precautions will help reduce travel sickness. If a child suffers from travel sickness and is travelling in the back seat of the car, try changing the child’s seating position so he or she can focus on the road ahead.
- Avoid reading or looking down as this increases nausea.
- If travelling by sea, go up on deck, face the direction of travel and focus on the horizon as this will help you regain a sense of balance.
- Some people find that acupressure wristbands, eating ginger biscuits or sucking peppermints help reduce travel sickness.