Coping with Travel Sickness

Most of us have occasionally suffered or have watched our children suffer from travel sickness.

The prime years for travel sickness are from the ages 2 to 12. However, many later outgrow the problem. But it’s an unpredictable phenomenon and without warning those switchback bends that looked so enticing to the driver can suddenly exert their toll, triggering overwhelming waves in the pit of the stomach. You’d rather be anywhere else but here, holiday or no holiday.

According to Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth, a GP from Cambridge and medical director of a travel clinic, it needn’t be this way.

She says that motion sickness begins when conflicting signals are sent to the brain from the eyes and from the inner ear. “If the driver throws the car around, tiny particles of chalk suspended in liquid in your inner ear push against microscopic hairs,” says Dr. Wilson-Howarth. “This tells your brain that you are on your side. Meanwhile, your eyes are sending different information and it’s this that makes you sick.”

“Motion sickness is quite suggestible,” she says. “If someone thinks they are going to be sick, they may well be. Take children’s minds off it by getting them to play games, listen to music and look out of the window at the horizon. Looking down to read can be a problem because your field of view moves around more.”

If this fails and the dreaded symptoms begin, shutting your eyes or lying down might help. And keep listening to that soothing music.

Planning ahead is important. “Light meals are best. Don’t have a big plate of fish and chips before a journey as it will slop around your stomach,” says Dr Wilson-Howarth. “Creamy chocolate drinks or fizzy ones are bad. Light drinks like apple juice are good.”

“Antihistamines are good if you know you’re going to be sick, but most people dose too late,” says Dr Wilson-Howarth. “Take them the night before and on the morning of the journey and then eight-hourly. If you begin to take them when you feel ill, it could be too late as they may not be absorbed properly. They should not make you drowsy but might – everyone is affected differently.”

Different cars affect different people so there’s no such thing as an ‘ideal’ vehicle. However, those with elevated ‘stadium’ rear seats and big windows help, because small children can see out more easily. Experts also recommend that motorists should drive as smoothly as possible, if they have sickness-prone passengers.