10 Ways to Combat Motion Sickness (from a life-long sufferer)

Posted on
Mar 29, 2010

I am not what you would call “strong-stomached”. Years ago, when I was a college intern at a local news station, one of the reporters called me “the runt” of the intern litter, and explained that had I lived a 100 years ago, I’d have promptly died of some contagious disease. I have been known to get nauseated on playground swings. I still have flashbacks to the one time I went on a spinning carnival ride know as “The Gravitron” in seventh grade. And last year, my doctor diagnosed me with B.P.P.V. – Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (which is a fancy way of saying that my ear canals are wonky, and often make me dizzy).

Bottom line? I don’t do well on planes, trains, or automobiles. Ditto for cars, boats, and aforementioned playground swings. So I know a thing or two about keeping my lunch down when I’m traveling. Here are my top ten tips to those of you who, like me, don’t do so well when things start to move (and, from what I hear, they’re applicable to any type of nausea from motion sickness to too-much-to-drink-sickness to morning sickness).

  1. Get some stability. Simply placing your hand on a flat, stable surface can help your body regain its bearings and fight off nausea. This is hard to manage when you’re actually moving, but once you’ve stopped, try placing your hand on a wall or table-top, and you’ll start feeling better soon. I’ve even placed my hand up against a car window (while we were moving) and felt better.
  2. Ginger. Whether it’s candy, these awesome little ginger cookies from Trader Joe’s that all my pregnant friends swear by, or even tablets, ginger has actually been proven to help prevent and combat nausea. And don’t forget – ginger ale is widely offered on most flights.
  3. Just breathe. Okay, fine – this is actually adapted from a tip I once saw in a Cosmo magazine … about, um … well, something totally different. But breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth will help calm all those creepy little muscles in your jaw and neck that start to tingle and make you want to barf.
  4. Get some sleep. No one feels in tip-top shape when they’re tired, and not getting enough sleep before a trip can exacerbate feelings of nausea, impair your immune system, and generally make you feel queasy all over.
    My hubby staves off nausea, at a ridiculous price.

    My hubby staves off nausea, at a ridiculous price.

  5. Eat something. An empty stomach is not a strong stomach. Eating something a few hours before your trip (so it has time to settle) will have you feeling a lot better (and less light-headed) that if you eat nothing. And, not to get too graphic, but barfing on an empty stomach means lots of bile, and lots of burning.
    No. Really. This will make you LESS nauseated.

    No. Really. This will make you LESS nauseated.

  6. Chin up! Keeping your head up, and straight ahead, is a great preventative measure against motion sickness. Bending down (to look at something, or to read) usually makes things far, far worse. If you’re like me, even tilting your head to take a nap on a plane can be disastrous (my last bout of vertigo was brought on by that). Keep your head straight, utilize the folding sides of your head rest, or invest in a neck pillow.
  7. Irrigate your sinuses. When pressure in my ears starting giving me the spins, my doctor suggested irrigating my sinuses. Though seemingly unrelated, it’s a great way to clear out any passages that might be blocked, which can lead to illness, dizziness, and vertigo. Pick up a neti-pot. It will change your life – or at least your sinuses – for the better.
  8. Look at the horizon. In addition to keeping your head up, looking at something stable in the distance – usually the horizon – will help your body regain it’s bearings and stave off nausea. This is harder to achieve on planes, but if this trick works for you, opt for the window seat (provided seeing the earth fall away doesn’t make you feel sicker). When riding in cars, trains, or buses, try sitting near the front of the vehicle or compartment, keep your eyes ahead of you, and avoid reverse-facing seats.
    Staring at the horizon in Germany, en route to Slovenia.

    Staring at the horizon in Germany, en route to Slovenia.

  9. Pop some pills. Usually a last resort, there are some over-the-counter medicines that really do work. In addition to natural alternatives (like ginger pills), you can try meclizine, which is used to treat nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness. While it is available over the counter, it was prescribed to me by my doctor, and if you have any health issues, I’d recommend talking to your doctor first. Also, just as a warning, these will knock you the heck out, esp. if you have a glass of wine.
  10. Know that this, too, shall pass. Sometimes it seems like the dizziness will never, ever go away. That you’ll be keeled over on your bed with the spins for the rest of eternity. But you won’t be. I promise. And sometimes, just realizing that is enough to make you start feeling better.

    Yay! No barfing!

    Yay! No barfing!

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