Malady in Motion (Motion Sickness)

Motion sickness ” it’s enough to make you want to stay at home.

Most of us have experienced motion sickness at some stage in our lives ” that awful feeling of nausea and dizziness that wells up inside you when you’re in the car, on a boat or even on a ride at an amusement park.

What causes motion sickness?
Inside your inner ear there is a series of canals filled with fluid,. These canals are positioned at different angles so that, when your head moves, the movement of the fluid inside the canals tells your brain what direction your head is moving in, how fast it’s moving and for what distance.

If your brain knows what position your head is in, it can then work out what position the rest of your body is in. Together with information from your eyes and your muscles, your brain can pinpoint exactly what position your body is in at all times.

But sometimes the fluid in your ears and your eyes or muscles can provide your brain with conflicting information. For instance, if you’re a in a car that’s driving along a winding road and you’re reading something, your inner ear is telling your brain that you’re moving, but your eyes are telling your brain that your body is still. Or if you’re on a boat, the horizon or the inside of the boat tell your eyes you’re still while the rolling motion of the boat tells your ears that you’re moving.

This conflicting information goes to a part of your brain known as the area postrema, which is close to the area in the brain that’s responsible for vomiting. That’s where the sick feeling comes from.

Symptoms of motion sickness can range from mild to serious and, if you continue to feel sick, dehydration, exhaustion and a dangerous drop in blood pressure can occur. However, if you’re exposed to this kind of motion for a long time, your body can eventually adapt.

What can I do about it?
There are different things you can do to prevent or reduce motion sickness.

  • Try watching the scenery go by. This helps your eyes to pick up on the movement your ears are sensing.
  • Position yourself where you’ll experience the least motion, such as over the wings in a plane or in the dead centre of a ship.
  • If you can, drive. Passengers tend to get motion sick more often than drivers.
  • Keep your head still. Moving your head around will move the fluid in your ears and add to the confusion in your brain. Some people also find that closing their eyes helps.
  • Lying down on your back allows the fluid in the ears to pool, rather than swirl around.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks and don’t have any alcohol for 24 hours before travelling.
  • Get plenty of fresh air. Fumes or smoke can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Remember that anxiety can make motion sickness worse, so try not to worry about getting sick.
  • Motion sickness pills can help, but usually only work if you take them before you start feeling sick. They can also make you drowsy. Ask your doctor or chemist for more information.
  • Research has shown that ginger can help to ease the symptoms of motion sickness. Try chewing on raw ginger or drink ginger tea.


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