The Motion Sickness Patch
The Transderm-Scop, commonly known as the motion sickness patch or simply 'the patch', is one of the most popular motion sickness medications and probably the most commonly prescribed medication for those worried about sea sickness while on a cruise.
There's no doubt that the patch is highly effective for many people. Some report that it is the only thing that has ever helped relieve their motion sickness. However, this is a serious medication and it is important to be aware of the possible side effects
as they can be quite scary if you are badly affected. By all means try the patch, but do so on the basis of an informed decision and under the care of a doctor.
What is the Motion Sickness patch?
(active ingredient: Scopolamine) is a medicated patch that looks like a band-aid and is the size of a small coin. It slowly releases medication (over a 72 hour period), which is absorbed into the body through the skin. The patch is quite discreet and is normally applied to the hairless skin behind the ear, although I've seen people wearing them on the side of the neck and even on the face. I've heard of fashion conscious women wearing them hidden away on their hip, however I am unsure whether this is medically recommended.
Transderm-Scop Motion Sickness Patch
The patch's big plus point is that for most people it works better than Bonine
, while not making them as drowsy. Likely side effects of the patch are dry mouth and mild dizziness, but many are understandably willing to put up with this. Much more serious is the possibility of disorientation and hallucinations that a minority of people will suffer. Additionally, I've spoken to several people who have found that the severity of the side effects increases the more they use the patch.
How is the patch used?
The motion sickness patch must be applied several hours before you expect to be exposed to motion, in order to give the medication time to be absorbed into your body. It is strongly advisable, however, to apply the patch 24 hours in advance, in order to discover how you react to it. Should you suffer side effects, then you can decide how to deal with them while you are still on firm ground.
The patch can be extremely effective when used properly. It sounds obvious, but if your patch isn't working for you, do check that you have applied it properly and, in particular, that you have removed the protective peel-off backing! Take special care when applying and removing the patches, washing your hands thoroughly to remove any medication residue. It is especially important not to touch your eyes with residue on your fingers, as this will cause your pupils to dilate giving your very blurred vision. When you remove the patch, be sure to clean the area where it was applied with soap and water, otherwise any residue left on the skin will continue to be absorbed.
The motion sickness patch comes in a single 'one size fits all' dose and I've met several people - usually petite women - who find using the whole patch too overwhelming, and therefore cut it in half, and use half at a time. I've also heard of people covering a section of the patch with a strip of band-aid or tape. I can't advise on whether this is a good or bad thing to do, but as medications should generally be used as directed I strongly suggest you consult your doctor before trying this.
If the patch delivers too big a dose, then consider taking Scopace pills
instead. Scopace contains the same active ingredient as the motion sickness patch (Scopolamine), but in smaller, more flexible doses.
It appears Scopace (Transderm Scop in pill form) has been discontinued and is no longer available - try other
medications with the same active ingredient (Hyoscine Hydrobromide) instead.
What are the patch's possible side effects?
The motion sickness patch is associated with a number of side effects
, the most common of which is blurred vision (the manufacturer of Transderm-Scop estimates that some 60% of those using the patch will experience this). Another common side effect is dry mouth and, for some, an unpleasant taste in the mouth. For most people the patch is non-drowsy (as noted above, this is a major reason that it is so popular), however the pay-off is that some people experience restlessness and even insomnia. More severe side effects (experienced by an estimated 10-15% of those using the patch) include confusion and disorientation. I've heard of cases where the patch has made people so dizzy and disorientated that they can't stand. In extreme cases the patch has been associated with hallucinations and psychosis. There is also the possibility of allergic reactions
. Obviously it is important in these cases to remove the patch (remembering to thoroughly clean the underlying area) and seek urgent medical attention.
There seems to be evidence that elderly people are more likely to suffer severe side effects from using the motion sickness patch. The patch is not approved for use by children. Avoid alcohol while using the patch as it is likely to amplify any side effects.
What are the possible withdrawal symptoms from the Transderm-Scop patch?
Those who use multiple motion sickness patches (i.e. for a duration of more than 72 hours) have an increased chance of suffering withdrawal symptoms around 24 - 48 hours after removing the final patch. This can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety and palpitations, and headaches. Both side effects and withdrawal symptoms appear to get worse for each subsequent period that the patch is used. Those who suffer withdrawal symptoms generally comment that the relief from motion sickness wasn't worth paying the price of the withdrawal symptoms.