Motion sickness

Motion sickness is not an illness: it is a perfectly natural reaction to contradictory motion inputs to the senses of the body. The causes of motion sickness are not fully understood, though it is thought to be due to the conflicting signals that are perceived by two or more of the body’s senses. The movements perceived by the balance organs in the inner ear send one message to the brain; but this may be contradicted by the movements perceived by the eyes. This causes the body’s inner balance to be disturbed, and this can prompt motion sickness to occur.

Anyone can develop motion sickness, however healthy their balance otherwise is. There are big differences, however, in individual sensitivities to it. Infants do not develop it. But children aged between two and 12 are particularly prone. Older people seem to be less affected. Women also tend to suffer from it more than men, especially during menstruation or if they are pregnant. Persons who suffer from migraines are also more susceptible, as are people with an existing psychological condition (such as anxiety). Turbulence can also encourage its development.

Motion sickness is often preceded by symptoms such as fatigue, yawning, difficulty concentrating, headaches, mood swings or drowsiness. Motion sickness itself produces acute symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, paleness, drooling, heart palpitations, feeling hot and cold and hyperventilation.

Actions you can take to try to avoid motion sickness include asking for a seat near the wings, where the aircraft’s movement in the air is felt least of all. If this cannot be done, at least try and get a window seat: on a daytime flight, this will enable you to fix your gaze on a point on the horizon. This provides a reference point for your body’s balance system, and will usually alleviate any nausea.

Don’t travel on an empty stomach, either: doing so can also bring on motion sickness. We advise you to eat light food before and during your flight. You should also avoid drinking too much coffee, black tea or alcohol, steer clear of fatty foods and refrain from smoking. And be sure to drink adequate volumes of liquids, too.

If you intend to take medication to prevent motion sickness, this should be done 30 to 60 minutes before takeoff, to give it the time to have sufficient effect. Pay due and full regard to the dosage and any contra-indications, too.

The range of anti-motion sickness medications available includes chewing gum and various types of tablet. Many of these can be taken more than once – on a long-haul flight, for instance – subject to their indications. In the field of herbal remedies, ginger has also been shown to help prevent nausea. This should be taken before the flight, and can be ingested in tea or tablet form.