For people who have motion sickness, otherwise known as travel sickness, airsickness, car sickness or sea sickness, travelling is a nightmare. And it can affect almost anyone, but the response and sensitivity of people to motion sickness varies greatly. Children, pregnant women, and people who have migraines are mostly amongst the sufferers.
When this happens, motion sickness medicine can be of help in suppressing the conflicting sensory input to the brain and help to alleviate the symptoms of dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
Causes of Motion Sickness
The exact reasons why some people develop these symptoms are not fully understood. It is believed to be a complex phenomenon, arising due to conflicts in sensory input to the brain. The brain receives signals for motion through three different pathways of the nervous system, the inner ear sends information about balance, motion, acceleration and gravity, the eyes provide vision, and the deeper tissues of the body surface sense the position of body in relation to external objects. When the body moves intentionally, the input from all these pathways is processed in a coordinated fashion. When there is unintentional movement of the body, as occurs during sitting in a moving vehicle, the brain is unable to coordinate and analyze the input, resulting in classic motion sickness symptoms of dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
Motion Sickness Medicine
Motion sickness can be treated with different medication. It's usually better to take medication for motion sickness before the journey to prevent the symptoms. These medicines are not very effective after the travelling begins, or the symptoms like nausea and vomiting start.
1. OTC Antihistamines
Antihistamines are very effective to control and prevent motions sickness. The traditional antihistamines are better than the non sedating antihistamines in this regard.
- Cyclizine is available by the brand name of Marezine and Bonine Kids. It is associated with fewer side effects as compared to other popular motion sickness medicines. It does not cause sedation in most people, and is well tolerated and approved for use in kids over six years of age. It is best to consult a doctor first before taking it.
- Meclizine is marketed under many brand names, such as Bonine, Bonamine, Antivert and Dramamine Less Drowsy. Travel-Ease chewable is also Meclizine-based. It has excellent efficacy with great results and few undesirable side effects, these qualities make it an ideal choice for seasickness treatment. However, it can cause drowsiness and slow down the reactions. Meclizine-based medications are not recommended for children under 12 years of age.
- Dimenhydrinate: This medicine is available in the market by the brand names of Dramamine, Triptone and Gravol. It is a very effective medicine but is associated with undesirable side effects like fatigue, drowsiness, and blurring of vision that can be intolerable for some people. Dimenhydrinate increases sensitivity of skin to sun light, so it is important to cover up or use a sunscreen. Dimenhydrinate is safe for kids but it is better to consult the doctor first.
Scopolamine is also a very commonly prescribed and effective medication for motion sickness. Its efficacy at preventing motion sickness has been documented by recent research studies. To achieve maximum benefit, it must be taken before the symptoms start. It is available in the form of a patch, by the name of "Transderm Scop", this can be placed behind the ear a few hours before the travel. The effects can last for 3 days.
Side effects of this medicine include dryness of mouth, vertigo, disorientation, blurred vision, and drowsiness. This medicine is contraindicated in people at risk of angle-closure glaucoma.
Promethazine (Phenergan, Pentazine) and Metoclopramide (Reglan) are two Antidopaminergics that are used in management of motion sickness with positive results. They can cause drowsiness, and in few people can result in torticollis or painful spasm of the neck muscles.
- Promethazine is marketed by the brand name of Phenergan, which is a well known motion sickness medication. It is available in the form of, pills, suppositories and injections. It is commonly given by cruise doctors as an intramuscular shot. While some people find it very effective, the side effects make it unattractive for others .The primary side effects are drowsiness that can last for a day, confusion, vertigo and disorientation.
4. Other Motion Sickness Medicine
- To counter the sedating effects of other motion sickness medications, ephedrine and amphetamines are occasionally used. Caffeine is proved to have some beneficial effects when administered in combination with other medications for motion sickness.
- Benzodiazepines are another alternative. Alprazolam (xanax) and Diazepam (Valium) are helpful to some extent in preventing motion sickness.
- Prochlorperazine (Compazine) and Ondansetron (Zofran) are strong antiemetics and are very successful in controlling nausea and vomiting, they are used to provide effective relief once the symptoms start.
Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness
Motion sickness medicine may not be able to prevent all cases of motion sickness. The following tips can help to prevent motion sickness and can lessen the severity of symptoms:
- Always try to sit facing the direction of travel, facing backwards from the direction of travel can lead to symptoms.
- Try to choose a seat where you will experience the least turbulence, like the central part of the aircraft. On a ship, the lower level cabins near the center of a ship generally experience less motion than higher or outer cabins.
- Avoid sitting in the backseat of the car, try to occupy the front seat to avoid getting sick.
- If you are prone to motion sickness, avoid reading while travelling.
- When traveling by a car or boat, keep your gaze fixed on the horizon or on a fixed point.
- Opening a source of fresh air or a vent is also very helpful.
- Eat light before or during travel. Try to avoid food that does not suit you or make you feel unusually full. Heavy, spicy, or fat-rich foods can precipitate motion sickness in some people. Alcohol can make it worst.
- Avoid strong food odors like garlic.
- Isolate yourself from people having motion sickness symptoms, and try not to talk about it. Hearing others discuss about it, or seeing people getting sick can make you nauseous too.