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April 15, 2014

Motion sickness: When the brain can’t get its bearings!

You would love to go whale watching in Tadoussac, but just the thought of getting in the car, taking a plane or boarding a boat is enough to make you feel queasy? You probably have motion sickness.

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages from the eyes and the ears. For example, if you are reading in a car, your eyes see a relatively stable image. However, your ears, which play a major role in regulating balance, perceive the motion of the car. When it receives these incompatible signals, the brain becomes confused, and this confusion provokes the various symptoms associated with motion sickness.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

Motion sickness usually develops gradually.

Step 1

General feeling of discomfort and malaise, paleness, headache, mild nausea and tiredness.

Step 2

More intense nausea, increased production of saliva and sweating.

Step 3

Dizziness, vomiting (at times painful) and cold sweats.

Symptoms usually diminish when the movement stops. In some people, however, it can take days for symptoms to disappear altogether.

Good to know!

Strong, unpleasant odours can sometimes trigger the onset of symptoms.

Are there remedies for motion sickness?

Pharmacies carry various over-the-counter drugs – usually antihistamines – that can prevent motion sickness or reduce its symptoms. They come in various forms:

  • Pills
  • Suppositories
  • Skin patches

For maximum effectiveness, pills and suppositories must be taken at least 30 minutes before a trip. As for skin patches, they should be applied 12 to 24 hours before departure.

Good to know!

Young children should not be given this type of medication. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before buying these products. Among other things, they can provoke unwanted side effects (e.g. drowsiness, excitability).

Can motion sickness be prevented or managed?

Yes, it can! In fact, here are a few helpful hints.

  • Avoid movement. Do not turn your head abruptly. Keep it well supported and steady.
  • Eat a light meal before a long trip. Do not travel on an empty stomach. Be sure to avoid spicy foods, alcohol, carbonated drinks and fatty foods.
  • If possible, do not smoke.
  • Try a distraction. Listen to soft music, for example, but do not read.
  • Stay calm.Stress and anxiety can lead to motion sickness.
  • Do not keep yourself from vomiting if you feel the need. Be prepared. Bring a plastic bag and moist towelettes.

In a car

  • Sit in the front seat.
  • Ask the driver to go slowly. Avoid sudden changes in speed and direction.
  • Slightly recline your seat.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon and try to ignore everything else, like the moving landscape on each side.
  • Do not focus on your discomfort.
  • Roll down the windows and breathe deeply.
  • If necessary, stop on the side of the road to get your bearings.

On a plane

  • Request a seat at the front, over the wing.

On a boat

  • Choose a middle cabin, near the waterline.
  • Stay outside.
  • Focus on the horizon or on a fixed point on the coastline.

Pharmacy services

Need more hints? Talk to your pharmacist. He’s a great source of information.  

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.