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How to Manage Motion Sickness

Updated on October 14, 2012
Many children suffer from travel sickness
Many children suffer from travel sickness | Source

Motion sickness also known as travel sickness can occur when one is traveling in a train, plane, car, bus or boat. It is characterized by nausea and can lead to vomiting. It is caused by the wrong signals being received by the inner ear, muscles and eyes.

Many parts of the body send their own signals to the brain while one is traveling. The signals sent by the eyes are about the direction of movement while one is mobile. The signals sent by the muscles are concerning the position of the body and the mobility of the muscles. In the inner ear, there is fluid in the semicircular canals which detect the whole range of movements i.e. backward, side to side, circular, forward, down and up.

The brain tries to make a connection between these different parts of the body by trying to get a link between the signals received by the eyes, muscles and inner ear. If the brain cannot make sense of the signals, travel sickness (otherwise known as motion sickness) occurs and is experienced by the sufferer as nausea.

A good example is this: if a child is reading a book while going along in a car, his eyes will see a book which is not moving, while the inner ear will send a message to the brain that the body is moving forward in the car. In this case scenario, the brain is receiving conflicting messages from the eyes(signals that the body is stationary) and the inner ear (signaling that the body is in motion). The brain becomes confused which causes nausea, tiredness and dizziness. Vomiting could be the result so it is best to be prepared for this. If the sufferer is afraid or anxious this exacerbates the condition.

Medication is indeed available for someone experiencing travel sickness but there are also simple measures which can be taken to prevent it and avoid the need for medication. For example, one should always sit facing forward instead of backwards so that the eyes and the ears get similar signals which may help to avoid motion sickness. It is also better to look outside and focus on objects that are some distance away from the moving car. This is much better than being involved in some stationary activity like reading or playing video games. When traveling in a plane or a boat, encourage the person with motion sickness to look out the window and focus on the horizon. For example, in a boat, one can look at the horizon which will seem to be in motion. This motion signal correlates with the signals from the inner ear and the muscles. When the signals from these body systems are in tandem and not conflicting, travel sickness does not occur. Basically, focusing the eyes on what is at a distance and in motion will inhibit motion sickness from occurring rather than focusing on something stationary like a book when the signals from the rest of the body are that one is in motion.

Another helpful idea for motion sickness is to sit in the part of the car, plane or boat that is moving the least. For example, in a plane this would be the center aisle or stay in the center of a boat to avoid sea-sickness.

Despite all efforts to avoid this condition by using the above tips, it may still be necessary to get some over-the-counter medication in your pharmacy for this condition as well as being prepared for some motion sickness during a journey which cannot be avoided. However, in most cases motion sickness can be prevented using a combination of medication and/or the above tips.

Does your child suffer from travel sickness?

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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Glad you found this hub useful and hope the tips help your daughter when travelling.

    • Victoria Stephens profile image

      Victoria Stephens 5 years ago from London

      I didn't realise it had so much to do with the eyes and ears, I will try getting my daughter to focus on something in the distance and see if that helps her. She is ok on most vehicles except for cars and is ok by car if it's only a short journey but for the long ones a travel pill and a bucket is greatly needed. Thanks for the tips.x