Avoid motion sickness with these remedies

Don’t let a queasy stomach ruin your next cruise, road trip, or flight

ShopSmart: July 2008

Planes, trains, boats, and automobiles can quickly turn into roving torture chambers when motion sickness kicks in. Some folks are more susceptible than others, but most travelers get hit with it sooner or later. Here's what to bring along when you take to the road this summer, so you can enjoy your lunch-and avoid losing it.

First, the one piece of good news about motion sickness: If you're traveling with infants, you probably won't have to worry about them. Children rarely get motion sickness before age 2. But as kids grow up they become increasingly susceptible. The worst years are usually between the ages of 4 and 10. Women are more often affected than men, especially when they are pregnant, menstruating, or taking birth-control pills. Also, migraine sufferers appear to be more prone to motion sickness.

So what causes that queasy feeling? "Motion sickness is often a disconnect between what the eyes see and the body feels," says Paul Gahlinger, M.D., adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a pilot. You get seasick below deck in a boat because the appearance that nothing is moving doesn't jibe with the sensation of motion felt by your inner ear. "One way to right yourself is to focus on a visible horizon," says Gahlinger. Go on deck and focus on the point where waves meet sky; in a car, look at passing scenery. "If you can't do that, minimize the brain disconnect by lying down or reclining and closing your eyes."

Feeling queasy? Try these remedies

Although far from proven, these are safe and worth a shot, especially for mild symptoms. Ginger root, typically sold in candies and capsules, has the most supporting evidence. Occasional use of up to 250 milligrams four times a day is considered safe for most people, including women who might be pregnant.

Bracelets such as Sea-Bands, found at drugstores, stimulate acupressure points on the wrist and have been shown to combat nausea in some situations. The evidence that they work against motion sickness is mixed. However, they're safe and can be used along with other remedies.

Older over-the-counter antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) have been proven to counteract motion sickness and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by children older than 2. The catch is that they take 30 minutes to an hour to kick in, and they can leave you feeling drowsy or light-headed. Newer, nonsedating OTC antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec p) might relieve allergy symptoms but don't appear to quell a queasy stomach.

Promethazine (Phenergan) is another antihistamine effective at relieving nausea, but it might make you sleepy. Another choice is prescription strength meclizine (Antivert), although it, too, may cause drowsiness. A scopolamine patch (Transderm-Scop) is also very effective, but side effects including blurred vision and severe drowsiness make it a treatment of last resort. Some patients also report a rebound effect, including nausea, dizziness, and headaches when they remove the patch.

How to handle carsick kids

If your child is not a "great little traveler," don't worry. Many kids outgrow motion sickness by adolescence. In the meantime, try these steps to help minimize your travel troubles.

DON'T let carsickness-prone kids read, color, play handheld games, or watch videos. Have them listen to music or audiobooks and play games such as I Spy that involve looking out the window.

DO plan frequent stops for fresh air. Wear the kids out at a park or fast-food play area. Sleeping children don't get carsick.

DO be prepared with a waterproof bag and a cleanup kit. Include a change of clothes, paper towels, an enzyme-based pet-spot remover (good for cleaning and deodorizing after human accidents too), and a towel to cover the cleaned seat.

DON'T give susceptible kids an untried OTC antihistamine. Try a test dose at home. These drugs make most people drowsy, but some kids have the opposite reaction. And you don't want to be stuck in a moving vehicle with a hyper child.

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