By Jan White
It’s been estimated that one in three people get motion sickness at some point in time. Women and children aged two to twelve are the most susceptible, but the condition can affect anyone.
One of the biggest fears for travelers is getting motion sickness or “car sick” and ruining their trip.
What causes motion sickness? Dr. Jay Hoecker of the Mayo Clinic explains, “Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the inner ears, eyes, and nerves in the joints and muscles.” For instance, when riding in a car, your eyes see trees passing by and register movement, your inner ears sense movement, but your muscles and joints sense that your body is sitting still. The brain feels a disconnect between the messages, and the confusion literally “messes with your head.”
There are so many tips and recommendations, home remedies, and over-the-counter products it can make your head spin. But do they actually work? Unfortunately, what might be a lifesaver for one person does absolutely nothing for another. It becomes a matter of trial and error.
Experts have offered some tips, though, that might help with adults, and especially children suffering from car sickness.
Roll down the windows – There’s something about breathing fresh air that helps when someone is experiencing car sickness. Fresh air seems especially helpful for those suffering from nausea. But try to avoid exhaust fumes from passing vehicles. If necessary, keep the windows rolled up and turn the air conditioning down so the person suffering can have cool, circulating air near their face.
Eat something light – If you are eating right before a long car journey, make sure it is something light. Sitting in the car for a long time after a heavy meal can cause indigestion, lightheadedness, or nausea. When choosing “road trip snacks,” try to select lightly salted nuts, trail mix, fruit, granola bars, bagel chips, or popcorn. Like heavy meals, heavy snacks can cause a bloated or uncomfortable feeling during trips with infrequent stops.
Eyes at the front – Encourage your child to look out the windshield of the vehicle and not the side window. Place car seats in the middle of the backseat, which naturally encourages them to look forward instead of to the side. And for front-facing car seats, choose one that gives them a boost so they can see the horizon through the windshield. For many adults, sitting as a front-seat passenger rather than in the back seat seems to help.
Use acupressure bands – Some adults and youngsters find relief from acupressure bands (like Sea-Bands). Put them on before the road trip begins, with the pressure button over the center of the wrist.
Stay hydrated – Water can help reduce the severity of a headache caused by travel sickness; drink plenty of it. You might also try “Smartwater.” The electrolytes help maintain fluid balance and can be more hydrating than plain water. Smartwater is sugar-free, sodium-free, gluten-free, and fluoride-free; many have no artificial flavors or colors.
Chew gum – You’ve probably used this trick to help prevent your ears from popping during airplane flights, but chewing gum can help relax your stomach. Try peppermint or ginger-flavored gum to help settle your stomach.
Stay off the screen/book – Although it seems like a great way to pass the time, scrolling through social media or watching the newest Netflix binge can worsen headaches. The same goes for reading a book. Save it for something to do when you reach your destination.
Crank up the radio - Distraction is one of the best ways to help your mind forget about the inconvenience of travel sickness. Play your favorite songs on the radio to focus your mind on something else other than feeling sick. But be careful not to crank them up too loud – or a headache might ensue.
And when all else fails, bring a sick bag. In the event that none of your travel tricks work and you can’t pull over to the side of the road or reach a restroom in time, it helps to have a sick bag onboard for those “just in case” moments.