Sunday, July 06, 2014

Motion Sickness Tips

As a sufferer of motion sickness, I know how much it sucks. I've been experiencing car sickness, airplane sickness, and general nausea and malaise from too much motion since I was young. I've puked on myself in other people's cars, had to pull over to try and throw up on the side of the road, and felt crappy from riding rollercoasters, boats, airplanes, and metro trains, and even felt nauseous from sitting in the ocean's waves on a boogie board. There's really no limit to what will make me feel motion sick. It sucks.

My motion sickness prevention arsenal. 
Motion sickness is caused by conflicting senses between your eyes and the liquid in your inner ear. Your inner ears can feel your body moving, but your eyes aren't seeing the same thing. I always think of this video that explains why it happens. The leading theory as to why vomit when this happens? is that it's a remnant of evolution: if early humans had a mismatch between what their ears and eyes are feeling, it probably meant they had consumed a neurotoxin, so the body's response is to puke it out!

Vomiting often makes me feel better, but I try to avoid feeling that pukey feeling in the first place. My overall strategy is:
  1. long-term prevention: take magnesium supplements daily.
  2. short-term prevention: limit food intake immediately before motion activity.
  3. drugs: take motion sickness pills before and during activity. when in doubt, take another.
  4. non-drug layers of protection: for added prevention that won't interact with the drugs.

Here are a few techniques I've used and had different levels of success with:

  • Dramamine / dimenhydrinate / meclizine - I've used Dramamine (or generic dimenhydrinate) for years. It seems to work on preventing motion sickness, but not always. Recently I've been trying generic meclizine instead, and it feels more powerful and seems to be a tad more reliable.
  • Seabands - I tried Seabands acupressure bracelets on a whim after feeling motion sick while hungover. The pharmacist at Wal-Mart said he recommended them, and that his mom and sister both loved them. I puked in the car on the way home. But these are really easy to wear while traveling, so I always do. I don't know if they help.
  • MotionEaze - I bought this herbal oil stuff as an added layer of motion sickness protection. It smells good, but it's really strong. If I don't remember to apply it (behind the ear) before I get on the airplane, I avoid it because I think it's too stinky. I don't know if it helps, but it's an additional layer that isn't medicine. This is probably a good solution for kids, since it's herbal and is applied to the skin.
  • Magnesium - My ear doctor recommended that I try taking a magnesium supplement on a daily basis to prevent both migraine headaches and motion sickness. I was all magnesium'd-up before flying to Hawaii in May, and I didn't get sick. But when I traveled to Paris in June, I hadn't been taking my magnesium supplements regularly and I did get sick. Based on this impromptu and totally un-scientific experiment, I think magnesium is important.
  • Ginger candy - Supposedly ginger can help calm your stomach. If I'm feeling sort of yucky but good enough to eat something, I'll chew on these ginger candies. I don't know if they help.
  • Sleeping - If my eyes are closed and my mind is elsewhere, I can't get sick, right?! That's what I tell myself. I've successfully avoided feeling sick at all by sleeping my way through the ride. It really works.
  • Keep calm - If I start to feel sick, sometimes I freak out and it only makes it worse. To keep calm: close your eyes or watch the horizon, listen to music or distract yourself in some way, breathe extremely regularly, fresh air or a cool breeze, shed a layer so you don't get too hot. Most important for me is to breathe. I've had instances where I'm about to puke and start freaking out and my hands start feeling tingly and my fingers start cramping up into fists. It's super weird, uncomfortable, and makes me feel like a crazy person. Not good.
  • Puke bags - This isn't a remedy, but a save-my-dignity item. Sometimes getting motion sick and puking just happens. But I always have a puke bag within reach, and extras in my bag in case one isn't enough. (I snag them from airplanes.) I have quietly thrown up into puke bags on airplanes and once in a cab, both without my seatmate or taxi driver realizing or saying anything to me. Win?

Good luck to you, pukey traveler! If you have any tried-and-true suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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