Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness, Dr. Meltem Ayran | 13.02.2014

Have you ever traveled by land, air or sea and noticed that your head was spinning, your stomach was churning and you'd begun to come out in cold sweats? If you have, you've probably experience motion sickness.

When traveling in a vehicle (plane, car, ferry, etc.), potential symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, going pale, etc. are all signs of motion sickness. We can also define it as "deterioration of the perception of balance while being within a vehicle in motion."

Some people are innately more susceptible. Several factors (the degree of turbulence, the number of corners on a road, how choppy the sea is, previous illness, anxiety, etc.) can trigger the disease. While exact causes are unknown, it's believed that the problems lie in sensory organs that detect movement but send contradictory signals to the brain. The degree of motion sickness can vary depending on an individual’s sensitivity or intensity of the stimulus.

There are three ways we experience balance: Inner Ear, Eyes, and Sensory Organs. These organs, or "balance system," tell our brain what our body position is in space, its location, and which direction it should move. However, these three neural pathways can send conflicting signals while inside a moving vehicle. For example when flying you may feel the effects of stormy weather, but your eyes don't compute any of it. Another example: if you're reading a book in the backseat of a car, your inner ear and skin receptors recognize that you are in motion, but your eyes only notice the book. A true failure to communicate! This contrast between the signals your brain receives is when motion sickness is at its greatest risk.

Now that we understand a bit about the disease, let's look at some ways to prevent it.

  • Before and during travel, stay away from heavy, oily foods. Eat light things. Don't drink alcohol.
  • Sit in the most stable part of whatever vehicle you're in. In planes this means the seats by the window that are next to the wings. In ships this is the middle part of the ship. In cars this means the front seats. In buses somewhere where you can see the outdoors. And in trains seats by the window are ideal.
  • Avoid sudden movements of the head. Hold your head in a high position and watch out the window during your journey. Or if possible, focus your vision on a fixed point on the horizon.
  • If you can possibly get some sleep then do that. If it's not possible, then wear dark glasses or something to cover the eyes to reduce visual stimuli.
  • If necessary before or during travel, consult your doctor for medicine you may take to lessen the effects of motion sickness.
  • All these warnings apply to children as well as adults. With children you can get them to wear sunglasses and play games that force them to focus on spots on the horizon, or provide any medicine as recommended by your doctor.
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