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.
I like to know where can I find the pill so I don't get sick every weekend.
Lucy @ Motion-Sickness-Guru.com replies:
Thanks for getting in touch, I hadn't heard about the Transderm Scop being withdrawn in pill form. Is this in the US? I'll try to find out more.
Meanwhile, the best thing, as always, is to consult your medical professional. Were your Transderm Scop pills prescribed by your doctor? He or she should be able to tell you exactly what the situation is.
Sorry not to be of more help.
Lucy @ Motion-Sickness-Guru.com replies:
I've done some research, and unfortunately Scopace (the Transderm Scop in pill form) does indeed appear to have been discontinued. There are suggestions that Scopace simply wasn't profitable enough for the manufacturers :-(
Regarding other sea sickness medications, it may be worth asking your doctor about alternatives using the same active ingredient (Hyoscine Hydrobromide). Brand names include Joy-Rides, Kwells and Travel Calm.
Further than that I'm sorry but I simply can't advise. This is for two reasons - firstly I'm not a qualified medical practitioner, and secondly what works for one person may or may not work for another.
I would, however, urge you to try the various natural and herbal remedies first and then - if nothing helps - graduate onto trying each of the motion sickness medications in turn under the supervision of your doctor.
Good luck with finding what works for you.
Lucy @ Motion-Sickness-Guru.com replies:
MaryB, I haven't experienced this issue myself, but from what I've heard the blurry vision passes in a couple of days, and has no long-term effects. Having said that, if you are worried or the vision issues don't resolve themselves in 48 hours or so then I would strongly urge you to get a qualified medical opinion.
If you google this issue, many people suffer serious withdrawal side effects. We just booked another cruise for next year and I am researching alternatives (this is a helpful website!) because I do not want to go through that again. Please post this so that people who are looking at the patch know what they are potentially getting into. My own doctor had not heard of this withdrawal effect and the maker of the medicine does not do enough to warn against it. It can debilitate you for a week or more - not worth it.
I immediately got dizzy but figured it was because of nothing to eat for so long. Later that afternoon I got disoriented, dizzy, double vision, inability to see things close up, flushed hot red face, trouble speaking and thinking. I looked it up and realized this was most likely the patch. I removed it and it has been off about 13 hours and I am still having all the side effects. Does anyone know how to get this medicine quickly out of your system. Miserable enough from the surgery, sure wasn't expecting to get sick from something the anaesthesiologists said would help me. They never told me about any side effect of the patch only that it would keep me from being nauseous. Anyone have any tips for this? Would be greatly appreciated.
I used this working offshore for a period of about 10-12 days replacing the patch as was described by the instructions. The patch did prevent my motion sickness. During the use, my pupils became extremely dilated and I was unable to focus my vision or read. Furthermore mental concentration became more difficult.
Upon returning onshore and removing the patch the withdrawal symptoms started. This included extreme dizziness, vomiting, nausea, head-aches, sweating, speech disorganization. These effects lasted upwards of 2 months making it extremely difficult to work. This patch should not be used in any circumstance. This is coming from a healthy 25 year old male, so I could only imagine the effects on others.
I have an upcoming cruise that I am going on with two of my sisters. I am 59, my sisters are 68 and 73. They have never used the patch before. They both have other medicines that they take daily. Does anyone have issues with older age, or medicines that interact?
24 hours after removing the patch I woke up really ill from dizziness, migraine type headache, nausea. Could not stand up, blurred vision. I immediately went to the internist who diagnosed me with vertigo. Put me on antivert. This made me feel better, but all I could do was sleep. I missed a week of work after being on vacation which really wasn't good.
Finally went to balance therapy to be checked for BPV Benign Positional Vertigo. After going thru the head manoeuevre, I did not have that and looks to be withdrawal symptoms from the transderm patch. I am still bothered by it after 5 days. After this experience I would rather have dealt with sea sickness or just have used dramamine and the travel bands.
The kicker was that the patch didn't really do anything to help my air sickness (particularly when the plane tilted left and right). Needless to say, I won't be using the patch ever again. I've also tried Gravol in the past, but it also doesn't work well to ease air sickness, so I guess I'll just have to endure future flights without any medication at all.
I am a healthy petite 39 year old female, I used this patch for a 6 day cruise celebrating a family wedding. Day 1 I applied the patch, within 45 min I experienced extreme loss of vision, ended up having a seizure in front of my husband and children! Had to spend the night in ship hospital and as a result very high hospital bill. I was extremely disoriented, loss of memory and severe dry mouth. I missed the reception and it took the full vacation plus longer to recover. Remember I only had it on for 45 min!! I had CAT scans, EEGs and blood work upon returning everything came back fine. All reactions and symptoms were from this patch. I would not recommend this to anyone.
Finally, most formulary pharmacies will make this up for a fraction of the cost of the patch.
My second usage was for cataract removal with multi vision implants. Did not get sick at all and took it off immediately when I got home.
My third usage was yesterday for a spinal injection. I got very ill but took a prescribed anti nausea pill which relieved the nausea but still had weakness and confusion along with dry mouth. I do believe however that I had a bad reaction because the anesthetist was not informed about the patch and probably should have reduced the amount of anesthesia. Also, they gave me the patch about 15 minutes before the procedure and from everything I read, it should be applied hours before.
In conclusion, after a nights sleep, I am feeling good this morning. I do believe these patches are beneficial if used properly.
Many motion sensitive race car drivers advice:
JUST TAKE A NON DROWSY SUDEFED - it works!!