Motion sickness, also known as kinetosis, isn’t strictly an illness as such. It is a natural response to unusual influences. Here is the most important information and tips.
Unusual movements and acceleration can trigger motion sickness by throwing off our sense of balance. Psychological factors can exacerbate kinetosis. If you’re already anxious and stressed before commencing a trip, this makes the situation worse.
Symptoms often occur during winding drives, a turbulent flight or on water vessels when the swell is high. How do they come about? When travelling by car, for example, the body is still, the nerves and receptors do not perceive any movement in the muscles. The eyes, however, register quick movements. The balance organ in the inner ear also collects information – about curves, acceleration and slopes. This means the eyes, the vestibular system and the body are sending inconsistent messages to the brain, which cannot make sense of the opposing perception of movement and acceleration. The brain is overloaded and the nervous system is overstimulated, causing you to experience symptoms such as dizziness or nausea.
The symptoms of kinetosis are usually clear: they always occur in the same situations, such as in the car or on a water vessel. In mild to moderate cases, those affected therefore do not usually consult a medical professional. However, if the symptoms are more severe, it makes sense to seek medical attention. The doctor will check whether it really is motion sickness – and whether an infection or poisoning isn’t the real cause.
Symptoms depend on the degree of overload and the severity of motion sickness:
Prevent or reduce the unwelcome symptoms of motion sickness with these simple measures:
Do not read when travelling by car; take regular breaks to move your body. Ideally, drive yourself. If you’re a passenger, focus on a fixed point on the horizon.
When travelling by bus, try to sit in the middle or at the front. The bus sways less there. If you’re on a train, it helps to sit facing the direction of travel and to stand up regularly and take a few steps. And the same applies whether travelling by bus or by train: focus your gaze on a fixed point on the horizon.
When flying, an aisle seat or one near the wing is optimal. If you’re travelling by sea, it’s ideal to choose a cabin or a seat in the centre of the vessel – either right above the water surface or on deck. Make sure you move with the ship and not against it.
Eat light, low-fat food before and during your journey. Don’t consume alcohol or cigarettes. Keep yourself busy. Listen to music or an audiobook. And chew a piece of gum to stop your stomach from overreacting.
Tablets, suppositories and chewing gum are available that can help alleviate motion sickness. You can usually obtain them without a prescription. Take your medication at the first signs of motion sickness. If you already know you’ll get motion sickness, you can already take the medication – depending on the type – half an hour to an hour before your journey. Consult a medical professional to find out which medication is best for you.
Another remedy to help alleviate symptoms is ginger, as it eases nausea and reduces dizziness. Chew on fresh slices or resort to a powder or tablets.
Acupressure bands have small buttons on the inside that apply pressure to what’s known as the Nei Kuan point on the wrist. This can help alleviate nausea.
Various homeopathic remedies are available for treating the complaints associated with motion sickness. You will be recommended appropriate homeopathic treatments depending on your symptoms. Ask a healthcare professional about this.
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Julia Pieh (doctorate in pharmacy and toxicology, pharmacist, naturopath) works as a health consultation advisor and quality coach at Helsana. She is committed to providing health advice to our clients. Ms Pieh provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.
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