Travel Sickness

Symptoms, treatments, causes.

Travel sickness is a condition that can develop as a result of travelling by boat, train, car or aeroplane and can occur on long as well as short journeys. It can also be referred to as seasickness, car sickness, air sickness or motion sickness depending on the mode of transport being used. Symptoms may include nausea, dizziness and headaches and develops when the brain receives conflicting messages. Although most people are able to adjust to any motion disturbances pretty quickly, the initial symptoms can be quite uncomfortable, especially if you are not travelling for long enough to allow your body to adjust.

What can cause you to feel travel sick?

You can develop symptoms of travel sickness whether you travel by boat, car, aeroplane or train, however, it may differ from person to person and it won’t affect all people. Symptoms mostly develop in these scenarios because the brain is receiving conflicting messages from your vestibular system, which is located in your inner ear and basically consists of a complex network of water-filled openings, that’s specifically intended to give your brain a sense of movement as well as balance.

When you travel, your brain can become confused, because your vestibular system is telling it that you are standing still, while your eyes are telling your brain that you are actually moving. This contradictory signal can trigger a response from the brain’s nausea centres that can make you feel sick.

What are the symptoms of travel sickness?

Motion sickness can cause a number of different symptoms and it can vary from person to person, but the signature symptoms are nausea and sickness. You may also experience cold sweats, vomiting, pale skin, discomfort in the upper abdomen, drowsiness, dry mouth and an increased rate of breathing. Normally these symptoms can go away with time if you are travelling for long periods, but during shorter journeys where a person can become car sick, for example, the symptoms can pass within a couple of hours after the journey has ended.

It’s extremely rare but some travel sickness symptoms can last for weeks or even years, this is known as a condition known as mal de debarquement syndrome.

How do you treat or prevent travel sickness?

Travel sickness can mostly be prevented by taking steps during your travels to make it much less likely. Preventative methods include driving the car instead of being a passenger, if possible, however, if travelling as a passenger on a boat, train, car or aeroplane, you should try and keep your head as still as possible during your journey, keep your vision focussed on a single object on the horizon rather than looking down, try and relax and avoid alcohol or large meals beforehand.

There are also medications that can either treat or prevent travel sickness; these are Avomine, Kwells or Scopoderm. Most of these medications work in the same way, and that is to prevent the nausea centres in the brain from being stimulated and leading you to feel uncomfortable.

You may also benefit from non-prescription travel sickness treatments such as ginger or acupressure bands although neither has been clinically proven to help.