Head & Neck

Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness

written by Collin County ENT

Do you often experience dizziness, nausea, and vomiting when in a car, boat, airplane, or amusement park rides?

Most people who experience motion sickness have mild symptoms that can be treated with common remedies. But severe cases of motion sickness might require a consultation with a skilled ENT. 

How Your Ears Affect Motion Sickness

The symptoms of motion sickness intensify when your brain is receiving conflicting messages from the body. If these messages don’t match the motion you are experiencing, then it could result in nausea and discomfort. 

Your sense of balance is affected by the interaction of the inner ears, eyes, muscle and joint sensory receptors, and the skin pressure receptors. The central nervous system interprets these messages.

When the inner ears detect motions such as side-to-side, up-and-down, or forward-backward, then a message is sent to the brain to indicate the movement.

At the same time, the eyes are monitoring where the body is in space, as well as the direction of the motion. If these messages are conflicting, then the central nervous system might trigger dizziness and other symptoms of motion sickness.

For example, if you are sitting in a moving car, then your skin receptors and inner ears detect the motion of the car. When your eyes are looking down and focused on your phone or a book, then the eyes aren’t registering the visible movement through the windows. As a result, you might develop motion sickness symptoms.

One way to reduce the risk of motion sickness is to focus your eyes out the windshield so the visual messages match the motion that is experienced.

How to Ease the Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Are you prone to motion sickness while traveling? It can be hard to manage the symptoms of motion sickness when they become severe.

So, the best thing you can do is to begin treatment for motion sickness before getting on a boat or in a car. For example, you might take over-the-counter anti-nausea medication, such as Dramamine, 30 – 60 minutes before the trip. This proactive approach allows the medication to take effect before the symptoms begin.

Here are a few tips that you can use to ease the symptoms:

  • Breathing and Relaxation: Some people find it beneficial to close their eyes and put their concentration on their breathing. Focus on slow, deep breaths and pay attention to how the air is moving slowly through your airways. Be deliberate about relaxing all parts of your body, especially the forehead, jaw, shoulders, and abdomen.
  • Fresh Air: If you are in an enclosed space, it can be helpful to breathe fresh air. Step outside, crack a window, or turn up the air conditioner and let it blow on your face.
  • Focus on a Fixed Object: If you are in a car, then the best place to look is through the windshield. When on a boat, focus your eyes on the horizon. Don’t read or look down while traveling. 
  • Location in the Vehicle: Where you are sitting in the vehicle can have an impact on your symptoms. Make sure that you are facing the direction you are traveling. If you are sitting in the back seat, try moving to the front, passenger seat in the car. On a ferry or boat, some people find that sitting in the front of the boat is better than sitting in the back.
  • Change Positions: Also, consider your position in the vehicle. Some people can reduce their symptoms by laying down, while others find it better to stand up. Experiment to see which position is most effective for your needs.
  • Manage Food and Drink: Have a bit of food in your stomach without overeating before the trip. Also, avoid alcohol since it can increase the risk of motion sickness.
  • Natural Remedies: Some people find that peppermint or ginger are beneficial in reducing nausea. Try sucking on peppermint hard candy or chewing on ginger gum. 
  • Acupressure: Certain pressure points in the wrist can sometimes help to reduce nausea. Acupressure bands can be worn while traveling, but you need to be sure that the right pressure points are stimulated by the bands. 
  • Medications: Anti-nausea medications can be purchased over the counter. Two common ingredients used in these medications are dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or meclizine (Bonine). These medications can be slow-acting, which is why it is important to take them before the trip. Then, follow the recommended dosage if it is going to be an extended trip.

Most likely, your motion sickness symptoms will go away when your trip is over. But it is important to be prepared with treatments while in transit so that you can be comfortable and free of severe symptoms.

Severity of Motion Sickness Symptoms

Sometimes, the symptoms can be severe, to the point where a person vomits multiple times or is incapacitated until the symptoms go away. Usually, the symptoms start small with a feeling of uneasiness. Then, the symptoms intensify and result in cold sweats, waves of nausea, and more.

If you know that you have a high risk of motion sickness, then you can pay attention to the early signs and symptoms. Acting fast by changing your position or distracting yourself can ease the symptoms in the beginning stages. Treating the sickness right away is the most effective way to avoid severe symptoms that can develop, such as incapacitation and vomiting.

When Should You Talk to an ENT about Motion Sickness?

If you can manage the symptoms of motion sickness using the remedies listed above, then you probably don’t need to talk to an ENT. But it’s smart to schedule an appointment if you have severe symptoms or if you notice that the symptoms are progressively getting worse. 

An ENT can examine your ears, nose, and throat to determine if any problems are increasing your risk of motion sickness. Routine tests can be done to check the balance and nerve functions, as well as your blood pressure and hearing.

For more information about motion sickness and other conditions caused by the ears, nose, and throat, our team is here to help. We offer ENT services for patients in the Denton or Dallas areas.

At Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat, we have two convenient offices in Frisco and Plano, TX. Call to schedule an exam: (972) 596-4005

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