How to prevent Motion Sickness:
When faced with motion sickness, you are not helpless - even things as simple as where you sit, how you breathe and what you choose to eat and drink can have a huge effect on how you feel.
Basic "Dos and Don'ts"
Here I have gathered together some basic principles of behavior that will help you to minimize symptoms, and maybe avoid motion sickness altogether. Much of this may seem like common sense, but these 'tried and true' tips really help - either alone, or in combination with remedies and/or medications.
Once you've read through these general principles, take a look at the specific form of motion sickness that you suffer from (see navigation bar at the side under "Motion Sickness Types") for more helpful suggestions and ideas.
Before the Trip
Get a good night's sleep
If you're feeling tired you will be far more susceptible to motion sickness. Likewise, stress and anxiety can be triggers. If something's worrying you, try to sort it out before you leave on your trip. And think positive. There is a psychological aspect to motion sickness that can mean that if you expect to get sick, then you will get sick!
Ideally start preparing 24-48 hours in advance of your journey by drinking a small glass of water at regular intervals. Avoid alcohol the night before the trip - a hangover simply amplifies the symptoms of motion sickness.
Eat light, but do eat!
It helps to eat a small meal before traveling, preferably something bland and easy to digest. Experts suggest eating a small portion of high protein foods, such as meat, fish, beans, eggs or a peanut butter sandwich.
Things to take with you
A small bottle of water will help you keep hydrated during the trip. Remember a jacket or wrap - feeling cold or sitting in a draft can trigger motion sickness.
Pack a zip lock bag, or a sick bag (HygiCare Sick Bags
are really practical, or choose the pretty option
!), and remember to take a change of clothing for you, and especially for any children you are traveling with, in case of accidents.
Morning Chickness Bags - the "pretty option"
On the Trip
Worry makes you tense and more likely to be ill, so relax! Don't fight the movement and vibrations. Lie back in your seat and take long slow breaths (see Keep Busy
below). Keep your head back against the head rest (if there is one), and try to move it as little as possible.
If it is practical, I always try to lie down (even if it means lying on a grubby ferry carpet!). This brings me immediate relief! But others seem to find the opposite, and tell me that staying alert and active is better for them. So it's a case of experimenting and finding what works for you.
Focus on a far point
Try to sit where you have a good view outside (if you're on a boat, go out onto the deck) and keep your eyes on a distant fixed point, such as the horizon. This gives your brain a reference point from which to make sense of the movement it is experiencing.
Alternatively, closing your eyes - and therefore cutting out one of your body's sources of conflicting sensory information - may help, but again this seems to vary from person to person.
Fresh air and good ventilation are really important. Any kind of fumes can be major sickness triggers, as can the smell of food or strong perfume. So open windows were possible, and direct any ventilation towards your face.
Keep busy (and control your breathing)
Keeping your mind occupied helps to prevent motion sickness. Concentrating on silently reciting the lyrics of a favorite song, or doing some mental math, will help to distract your brain from the mixed sensory messages it is receiving. Concentrating on your breathing can also be a great help when you start to feel queasy, and has the twin benefits of giving you something to do, and supplying your body with lots of fresh air. Take a long deep breath in through your nose, hold for a moment..., then give a long slow breath out through your mouth. Try to slow this process down as much as possible, but without actually holding your breath. Also try counting silently as you breathe in, and again when you breathe out. At first you may struggle to get much past the count of five, but with practice - and concentration - you'll quickly improve. Personally, I find this one of the best ways to minimize motion sickness symptoms once I start to feel ill.
It's well known that, for many people, reading in a moving vehicle will trigger motion sickness. Similarly, avoid other activities that require close vision and looking down, for example knitting, travel games and - especially - anything that needs to be untangled!
Keep well hydrated
Being well hydrated is particularly important when flying, but applies to all situations where you are likely to develop motion sickness. Take regular sips from a bottle of water - it is much kinder on the stomach than pouring down a whole glass at once. But don't over do it, the idea is not to be excessively hydrated. One liter of water (approx. four cups) taken little by little throughout the day is about right for most people.
Many people find that sipping a carbonated drink helps too. Ginger ale is a good choice (more on ginger as a remedy for motion sickness
), but do make sure that it is a brand that actually contains some real ginger, rather than artificial flavoring.
Some people swear by Coca Cola (only the original, apparently) and Pepsi. I can't stand the taste of either, so I haven't tried this, but friends assure me that it works for them.
I've heard people say that you should avoid all liquids if you're prone to motion sickness, but I don't agree. Dehydration actually triggers motion sickness, so not drinking is, at best, counterproductive. And of course if you do vomit then it's particularly important to drink, as repeated vomiting can lead to you becoming dangerously dehydrated.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco
Most people agree that both alcohol and caffeine - and coffee in particular - simply exacerbate the symptoms of motion sickness (but see Alcoholic Relief
below...), especially if you are foolish enough to drink on an empty stomach. Beer may seem like a quick and easy way to keep your fluid levels up, but it will actually dehydrate you over the longer term. Don't do it to yourself.
Smoking is also likely to make you - and those around you - feel much worse.
Personally I think these 'cures' are anything but, however the people who told me swear that they work for them. Try at your own risk!
- A large brandy (preferably good cognac) drunk in a single gulp
- A Whisky Mac (Scotch whisky and ginger wine in equal parts)
- A few drops of bitters in soda or tonic water (or just plain water)
Eat lightly and keep something in your stomach
It might seem counterintuitive, but an empty stomach is definitely not a good idea. There's evidence that motion sickness can be triggered at the point when all the food in your stomach has been digested, so regular small snacks will actually reduce the risk of sickness. But choose what you eat carefully. Steer well clear of greasy, fried or spicy foods, and anything that isn't easy on the stomach, such as dairy, and any very sweet or rich foods.
Another advantage of having food in your stomach is that if you do vomit, at least you'll have something to vomit up. Trust me, there are few things more unpleasant than experiencing repeated 'dry heaves'!
(salty or savory, not sweet) are the sailor's staple, and for good reason - they're excellent for settling the stomach without triggering nausea. I like to have a bag of pretzels with me. Similarly, dry bread, toast or dry cereals (not heavily sugared ones) are great to nibble on, and are easy to carry with you. Ginger biscuits are also great (more on ginger as a remedy for motion sickness
are a little less portable, but are a great friend to anyone prone to motion sickness. They'll settle a queasy stomach - just suck on a lemon wedge (if you can bear to), or squeeze a little fresh juice into a glass of water. Make sure to smell the lemon too, it's great for clearing away early motion sickness symptoms.
with a little lemon juice squeezed over it is what a Greek friend of mine eats before embarking on Aegean ferry crossings.
Many people swear by green apples
- the pectin in them helps to neutralize the acid in your stomach. Apple juice should have the same effect. Others prefer to eat oranges or drink orange juice (although personally I find lemon works much better for me).
All these foods are best taken as preventatives before you suffer any symptoms, but they may also have a positive effect once you are feeling ill (more information on Preventing Motion Sickness with Natural, Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies
Suck a hard candy / boiled sweet
. The actions of sucking and chewing keep your saliva production going. This is a good thing as saliva works to neutralize stomach acid and therefore helps to guard against nausea and vomiting. In addition to regular snacks as mentioned above, try sucking on a peppermint candy or lemon drop, or chewing on some mint gum.
Keep your distance from others who are feeling sick and queasy. Although motion sickness isn't 'catching' in the true sense, you're much more likely to feel ill if you're near people who feel - or worse, are actually being - sick. It may be unfriendly, but for your own sake, keep your distance from sick friends!
Now take a look at helpful suggestions and ideas for the specific form of motion sickness that you suffer from:
... or read on about other ways of preventing Motion Sickness: