Dealing with motion sickness
People are often seen nauseating in their journey. It is a common condition that we all experience during our travel through car, bus and train. Sailors and travellers have suffered from motion sickness since the earliest times. Before, it was only known to travellers of sea and is frequently mentioned as sea sickness in Greek and Roman texts.
Why does it happen?
Brain estimates motion based on the input from our vestibular system and visual system. The vestibular system is a network of nerves, channels and fluids in our inner ear, which gives our brain a sense of motion and balance. Our brain holds details about where we are and how we are moving. It constantly updates this with information from our eyes. If there is a mismatch of information between these two systems, our brain cannot update our current status and the resulting confusion will lead to symptoms of motion sickness such as nausea and vomiting.
Who are affected?
Common sufferers are young children. Study has shown that Asians and females are more prone to develop this condition. The following are the most common risk factors for motion sickness: riding a car, boat or airplane, being prone to nausea or vomiting due to other morbidity, higher level of fear or anxiety, poor ventilation in the vehicle, sitting in the back seat or where you cannot see out the window, during pregnancy and migraine.
What are the symptoms?
The principal symptom is nausea which is derived from the Greek word for ship 'naus', where the symptom was first noted among sea travellers in ancient times. Other symptoms include vomiting, dizziness, belching, increased salivation and feeling of warmth, sweating or just a simple feeling of being unwell.
How can you avoid motion sickness?
It is best to try to prevent motion sickness, because symptoms are hard to stop after they start. On long journeys, it may be worth taking a break to have some fresh air, drink some water and if possible take a short walk.
Intermittent deep breaths may help to decrease anxiety and can prevent symptoms. Sitting in the front seat of the car or window seat of a bus and looking at a fixed point on the horizon can minimise the symptoms.
At night, or in a vehicle or ship without windows, it is helpful to simply close one's eyes, or if possible, take a nap. This also resolves the input conflict between the eyes and the inner ear.
Following tips may help reduce symptoms:
* Avoid spicy, greasy, or fatty meals before travelling
* Do not overeat, eat small meals that can easily digest
* Avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water
* Do not read or watch TV
* Do not play games on your cell phone
* Rest your head against the sea to keep it still
* Avoid smoking
Many other methods of preventing motion sickness are popular, such as taking ginger, peppermint or carbonated beverages but there is not much evidence that they can help, but it is safe to try them.
Acupuncture bands in the wrist are also suggested but there is little scientific evidence to show they are an effective treatment for motion sickness.
How to treat?
A straight forward treatment is to minimise the discrepancy between the visual and vestibular information in the brain. Drugs that reduce vestibular nuclei activity in the brain like antihistamines and anticholinergics can prevent motion sickness.
Although motion sickness usually goes away after the motion stops and causes no lasting harm, it can be devastating for people whose jobs include frequent travel. Even those who travel often may find that symptoms get better as they are more often exposed to motion.
However, people who get anxious before a journey often have worsened symptoms of motion sickness. Although, motion sickness is frequent, we lack right information about it. Correct information might be helpful for sufferers to build their confidence, decrease anxiety and prepare before travel.
The writer works at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]