Summer means travel. And for many people, that can mean motion sickness, be it travel by plane, train or automobile -- or even at an IMAX theater. You might feel nauseous, dizzy, sweaty and uncomfortable.
For most people, the symptoms vanish once the offending motion stops -- in other words, once you get off the plane or out of the car. But for others, the symptoms can last for a few days. This condition is called "mal d'embarquement."
Just why do people suffer from motion sickness? Well, your body is constantly balancing a variety of sensations -- signals from your inner ear, your skin, your eyes and your central nervous system. When these systems receive different messages, you can start to feel sick. One of the best examples is reading a book in the car. Your eyes -- focused on the page -- tell your body that you are stationary. But the fluid in your ears is telling your body a different story -- a story of motion.
What can you do to prevent motion sickness?
• Don't pick a window seat in an airplane. If you are seated by the window, don't look out.
• Don't read a book while in a car. Opt to sit in the front seat or drive.
• Get on the deck of the boat and take a good look around you. Watching the horizon will help.
• Don't pick a backward-facing seat on the train. Forward is best.
Certain medications also can help prevent motion sickness. The key is taking them well in advance of the motion. Antihistamines (such as Dramamine or Meclizine) or a scopolamine skin patch can prevent motion sickness. The skin patch is placed behind the ear and should be applied about four hours before getting in the car or boarding the boat or plane. Some people also find that ginger ale helps an upset stomach, or even rolling down the window in the car. Experiment and see what works for you.
Finally, some people actually can teach their bodies to tolerate the conflicting sensory signals that make them motion sick. So, if you like reading in the car but start to feel woozy, try to extend your reading time a little longer each time. Eventually, your body might tolerate reading in the car.
Dr. Randal F. Wojciehoski, also known as Dr. Wojo, is an emergency medicine physician at Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital in Stevens Point.