Last Updated February 20th, 2019
What Is Motion Sickness?
Maintaining balance and sensing motion are complex functions without which we would not be able to operate. This is made possible partly by certain tiny organs located within the inner ear. They are collectively referred to as the vestibular system. Even if you have your eyes closed and cannot see or feel through touch that you are moving, your inner ear is capable of detecting motion and helping you orient yourself accordingly. However, in order to maintain balance you will need complete integration between input from your sense organs like the eyes and the feedback from your vestibular system.
Motion sickness is a feeling of discomfort, nausea, and vomiting that occurs when a person is in motion, usually when traveling. The reason behind this is a conflict between what the eyes are seeing and what the vestibular system is observing when in motion.
For instance, you may be seated in a car that is cruising along a smooth highway. In this case, you can clearly see the landscape speeding past and your eyes are telling you that you are in motion. However, the movement of the vehicle is so smooth that your inner ear cannot sense it. Hence, the two inputs fail to match up and your brain becomes confused. As a result, you may feel nauseous and dizzy. You may break out in a cold sweat and even vomit.
What Causes It?
Any situation in which the input from your eyes fails to synchronize with the input from your inner ear can give rise to motion sickness.
In some cases, the eyes detect motion but the inner ear does not. Conversely, your inner ear may detect movement when the eyes do not.
This can happen when you are on an airplane with the window shades down or when flying through a patch of clouds.
All you may see through your window is dense cloud, but the turbulence will be noted by your inner ear.
It can also happen that both the eyes and the vestibular system sense motion but their inputs do not exactly line up with one another.One theory holds that when such a mismatch occurs, the brain assumes that the body has been poisoned with a neurotoxin. It attempts to purge this toxin from the system by inducing vomiting.Not everyone suffers from motion sickness, though. Those who do will most likely experience in scenarios such as those outlined below:
- Road travel, air travel, train travel or sea travel.
- Space travel.
- Virtual reality simulations as in video games.
- Watching a film in a cinema theatre.
- Reading a book or on a mobile screen in a moving vehicle.
- Vestibular migraines.
- Women are more likely to suffer from motion sickness during their monthly periods or when pregnant.
If you have motion sickness, this does not necessarily mean that you will continue to suffer from it throughout your life. This condition is common among young children but often disappears by the time they are pre-teens or adolescents.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Motion Sickness?
Symptoms set in only after initiating movement.
They may appear soon after the journey begins or after some time and are alleviated soon after the journey ends.
However, the dullness and fatigue may persist even after the journey.
At times, the person suffers from motion sickness during the first few hours or days of the journey, but eventually, they adapt and the symptoms recede.
Others may continue to suffer throughout the duration of the journey. Some people have the tendency to vomit while others may only feel uncomfortable and dizzy.Patterns and severity of symptoms vary from one individual to the next and even from one episode to the next. In general, those who suffer from motion sickness may experience some of the following symptoms:
- This may be exacerbated by activities that require concentration such as reading or writing.
- Feeling dull.
- Cold sweat.
- Feeling weak and tired.
Are There Different Forms Of Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness can manifest in a number of ways.
Some people become seasick because of the bobbing movement of boats or ships on the waves.
Those with motion sickness also tend to be uncomfortable on airplanes or in cars.
Hence, this condition is also known as ‘travel sickness’, ‘airsickness’, ‘seasickness’ or ‘car sickness’.
Are There Likely To Be Any Serious Complications?
Motion sickness is not a disease or a serious medical problem. Those who tend to suffer from motion sickness may even prefer to avoid travel in order to escape the associated discomfort.They may even go to the extent of avoiding professions that involve a great deal of travel.
Will I Need To Undergo Tests?
Most likely, you will not be asked to undergo tests. Motion sickness is a common problem and can be identified based on your description of your symptoms and the kinds of situations in which they tend to appear. Most often, those who suffer from motion sickness themselves come to realize the relationship between travel and their symptoms. They may not need a formal diagnosis.
Sometimes, nausea can be alleviated by simple home remedies like sniffing freshly cut lemons or drinking their juice. If you have a tendency to become travel-sick, try not to eat oily or greasy foods before the journey. Also, avoid reading during the journey. Instead, open the windows if you can and breathe in fresh air. Some people find that when they are the ones doing the driving, they tend not to suffer from motion sickness.
If you have the tendency to feel acutely nauseous and if you tend to vomit when travel-sick, then it would be best to consult a doctor on how to address this and prevent it if possible. In order to prevent vomiting, you may be given antihistamine or antiemetic tablets to be taken just prior to travel. Alternatively, you may be given a prescription patch that will prevent symptoms for a few days.
Are There Any Treatments That Can Help Me?
Motion sickness is quite common. We all know someone who feels nauseous on road trips or even on trains or airplanes. This is not a serious disorder although it can leave the person feeling very tired and drained at the end of long journeys. The best way to prevent symptoms is to avoid travel altogether or to take only short journeys wherever possible. However, if this is not a feasible option for you, try taking a suitable antiemetic after consultation with your doctor. NASA has even developed a specialized electronic device to help astronauts overcome motion sickness in space.
- It is a commonly occurring condition, with almost 80% of the global population suffering from it at least once in their life.
- The abnormality of the vestibular system which causes motion sickness is also found in people suffering from migraines or Meniere’s disease.
- Pregnancy and menstruation are observed to cause increased motion sickness in women.
- Since the balance center of the ear is not fully formed in infants and babies, they don’t experience motion sickness at all.
- Although motion sickness is caused by conflicting signals from the eyes and ears (vestibular system), many other factors such as poor ventilation, increased anxiety, a hangover from alcohol consumption etc can trigger motion sickness.
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Dos and Don'ts
- If you frequently suffer from motion sickness, choose a front seat while traveling in a car or the seat over a plane’s wing to experience more stability during travel.
- Prefer to drive rather than ride a car/automobile. It reduces the levels of feeling motion sick.
- Always carry citrus or ginger flavored lozenges to control the urge to vomit.
- Taking heavy meals and alcohol before travel.
- Read during travel.
- Sit opposite to the movement , it will jumble the eye-ear signal coordination.
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