Dealing with Motion Sickness

Photo Credit: CC Lic.

There is quite possibly nothing worse than motion sickness….you feel absolutely dreadful; you don’t have your bed to lie down in…in fact, lying down at all usually makes the motion sickness worse, and the only REAL solution is to STOP the car  –which you CAN’T do if you ever want to get to your destination!!  It’s a Catch 22 situation!!

I was a child who struggled with this and I had a child who would often need one of those “infamous bags” on trips.  Through those experiences, I learned several tactics for dealing with the situation.



WHAT is motion sickness?  Why does it happen?

Motion sickness is caused by the brain trying to sort the mixed messages it is receiving from the eyes and ears.  When you look around the interior of the car (airplane, cruise ship) your eyes do not perceive motion because the things around you SEEM to be still. The eyes send a message to the brain that you are NOT moving.  The inner ear, which establishes equilibrium, senses the movement of the vehicle (plane, ship) and sends a message to the brain that you ARE moving. The brain tries to process these mixed messages and can’t determine if you’re moving or not. 🙂  THAT leads to the nausea.

That explains why the methods below work.  However, we’re all unique individuals, so we respond differently.  Use trial and error to find what works for you or your child.

  •  Focus on the Road in Front of You:  Sit in the front seat to watch the road (especially winding roads) to straighten out the conflicting signals being sent to your brain. The front seat removes many of the stationary things in the car out of your line of vision (like the back of the seat, car interior, etc…) allowing the eyes to focus ONLY on the MOVEMENT. In our family, we play ‘musical seats’ putting the person who is ‘sick’ in the front. Obviously, reading or other activities that cause the eyes to focus on something stationary, is the worst thing to do.
  • To Eat or Not To Eat:  For some, an empty stomach makes motion sickness worse….for others, it’s the ONLY way to avoid the nausea.  Each person has to use trial and error to find out what HIS/HER body responds to.  My daughter figured out at a very young age that NOT eating was best for her.  She would bring along a bit of dry cereal (carbohydrate) or fresh fruit (contains enzymes that help with nausea) and eat it when she felt she needed to or was able to. For me, when I was a child, an empty stomach was a recipe for disaster.  A child of 6 or 7 yrs will usually know instinctively what he/she needs with this.  At first, I tried to insist that my daughter do what worked for me.  It was much better when I was able to realize that she needed to do things HER way…even at the age of 6.  :/  (one of those “light-bulb” moments for Mom….)
  • Fresh Air: Turn on the a/c or open a window and let the air/wind blow directly into your face.
  • Medications:  Most who struggle with motion sickness are familiar with Dramamine.  It works by addressing the inner ear issues.  It’s only drawback is that it makes you (VERY) drowsy.  That COULD be exactly what you want…unless  you’re the mom (or the driver). 🙂 The generic for Dramamine is Dimenhydrinate and is the exact same medication. Another common medication is Meclizine – again available in a generic form. These generics are very economically priced.  Look for them right beside the name brands in your drug store.  If you have any doubts, compare ingredient lists on bottles/boxes or ask your pharmacist.   WORD OF CAUTION:  Asthmatics should check with their doctor before taking Dramamine or it’s generic form.  It’s not totally contraindicated, but check with the Dr. as a precaution.
  • Transderm Patches are an EXCELLENT option, but they require a prescription

    Photo Credit: Missy Schmidt CC Lic.

    (and Dr. visit).  This is applied behind the ear 4 hrs before travel and a patch lasts 4-5 days.  These, too, address the inner ear issues. They are excellent for cruises, because of their longevity and the constant stream of medication.  We’ve actually never used them for road trips as that constant stream of medication sends mixed messages to the brain when you AREN’T moving –such as at nighttime or at ‘stops’.  That can make a person feel a little ‘strange’ at those times. haha!   However, if you’re traveling for several days back-to-back or have a child with SEVERE issues it might be worth consideration.


  • Ginger:  This comes in many forms.  The best part is that since it’s not a medication, no worries about interactions, and it tastes good (if you get a good one)
    • Candied ginger:  I get it at Sprouts
    • Ginger Tea or Ginger Ale

      candied ginger

      From Sprouts

    • Ginger Snaps – I don’t know how affective this would be, but they certainly taste good.  🙂
    • Prego Pops:  These are marketed for morning sickness (good option if pregnant) and are available at Babies R Us (and probably similar stores).  I’ve never personally used this, but heard they taste pretty good.  🙂
    • Ginger Root capsules:  Herb –  CAUTION:  These are a ‘natural blood thinner’ so be aware if you are on any other meds or have medical conditions contraindicating this.
  • SeaBands  Wrist bands that apply pressure on pressure points on the wrist.  They’re meant for sea-sickness, but work for any motion sickness.  I’ve never personally used this so can’t testify to it’s effectiveness, but it IS a commonly used remedy.  .
  • Green Apples: There’s something in the green apple that can help with nausea.  Cruise ships always sail with a large supply of these for that purpose.

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