Do you routinely get queasy on road trips? Perhaps as the driver, you’re fine, but not as a passenger. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent carsickness. Here are five to keep travelers smiling.
Understanding Motion Sickness
Carsickness is a form of motion sickness. Symptoms occur when the brain receives mixed input from the eyes and ears. Objects inside the car look stationary, but the inner ears detect motion. Confused by the sensory discrepancy, the brain panics.
Here’s an example. As a backseat passenger, you see the motionless car seat before you. However, your body feels road bumps, curves, and velocity changes, indicating movement. Your eyes tell the brain you’re not moving. However, your inner ears send messages that you are. Symptoms of motion sickness include sweating, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. A person may also develop a headache, hyperventilate, or belch repeatedly. Scientists aren’t clear why certain people are more vulnerable than others. However, motion sickness is most common in kids age 2 through 12, pregnant women, and people prone to migraines. Being a driver is less likely to trigger illness since your eyes and ears agree in their perception of motion.
While drugs can relieve symptoms, there are potential side effects. Serious reactions include drowsiness, confusion, and blurred vision. Also common are dizziness, dry mouth, and constipation. Children and seniors tend to be more sensitive to such drugs. Kids can also become hyperactive. Rather than risky medications, here are benign ways to resolve the malaise.
1. Mimic the driver’s position.
Ideally, a passenger with a history of carsickness should sit in the front. They should look straight ahead, keeping their eyes on the road, like the driver. Avoid turning the head to speak to the driver or passengers seated behind. Keep the head stable by resting it against the built-in head support. This position helps stabilize vision on roads that are bumpy, curving, and hilly.
If it isn’t possible for an adult to sit in the front, here are backseat options. If positioned in the middle, look ahead through the windshield at a distant point. If seated next to windows, gaze through them. Rather than staring hard, let the eyes relax. In the backseat, steady the head with a neck pillow. A child age 12 or under should also sit in the back, in a belted booster seat. The reason is that front airbags can seriously injure small children.
Car seat laws vary by state, but generally, a child shouldn’t sit in the front unless at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. For a child legally required to travel in a rear-facing car seat, copying the driver’s position won’t work. Instead, use the following strategies.
2. Don’t stare at objects inside the vehicle.
Symptoms will worsen by fixing vision on items within the car, such as a book, e-reader, cellphone, tablet, TV screen, or video game. Using the eyes in this way distresses the brain due to conflicting messages from the inner ears. The fast graphics of movies and video games are especially problematic, due to visual overload. If it’s not possible to gaze at something outside the car, listen to an audio book, iPod, DVD player, or radio. Passengers can settle back in their seats, close their eyes, and relax. Kids can sing along to favorite CDs.
3. Keep the vehicle well-ventilated.
Stagnant air can spark sweating and nausea. Either run the air conditioning or open car windows. The scent of peppermint also quells queasiness. Apply a few drops of essential oil to tissue, and inhale the fragrance. Also, breathe slowly and deeply. This relaxation technique calms jangled nerves, quiets the mind, and slows heart rate, making carsickness less likely. If your air conditioning system isn’t functioning, or if the car seems shakier than normal, the cause of carsickness might lie with your vehicle. Take it in for a tune-up at a place like Dualtone Muffler Brake & Alignment and see if the carsickness dies down.
4. Be selective with food.
The day before and during a car trip, travelers shouldn’t drink caffeinated and carbonated beverages. Also, avoid alcohol and chocolate. Most people can better tolerate road trips by eating a little food one hour before departure. However, rather than greasy, acidic, heavy food, choose something light, such as cereal with almond milk. During your trip, snack on healthy, low-fat fare, like yogurt, cereal bars, and whole wheat pretzels. Travel experts also recommend high-protein snacks, such as peanut butter on crackers or a protein drink. Pack a shaker bottle, protein powder, and a shelf-stable container of almond milk. Then, your beverage will be handy at the first hint of nausea.
Chewing peppermint gum helps to neutralize stomach acid and ease stress. Taking a B-complex vitamin calms anxiety. After eating, store food garbage in a tied plastic bag. Otherwise, lingering food odors can trigger nausea. Then, at every road stop, discard garbage in trash bins. Ginger tea is ideal for preventing and treating motion sickness. You’ll find the tea bags in natural food stores. Or, obtain ground ginger from your supermarket’s spice section. Make tea by dissolving ½ teaspoon each ginger and honey in hot water. Drink at the onset of nausea.
WARNING – Don’t consume ginger if you take blood-thinning medication, as it can increase bleeding risk. If you take diabetes medication, consult your doctor first, as ginger can lower blood sugar.
5. Apply wrist acupressure
This type of Chinese medicine releases energy blocks in the body, relieving symptoms of illness and disease. Acupressure points are energy centers mapped and numbered on nerve pathways throughout the body. Exerting pressure on a specific point restores energy flow through its corresponding nerve pathway.
The P6 acupressure point is associated with resolving anxiety, nausea, and vomiting. To locate P6, hold your right forearm palm up, and find the wrist crease. Place your left fourth, third, and second fingers on your forearm, up from the crease. Then, move your second finger to the left of the middle tendon. Apply gentle, sustained pressure to this point for a few minutes, until symptoms subside. Alternatively, you can buy an acupressure wristband. A plastic bead on the strap delivers pressure. Available in both child and adult sizes, acupressure wristbands are sold in pharmacies and online. Sea-Band is a popular brand.
Make sure the windshield isn’t obstructed by items dangling from the rear view mirror. Anything swaying within a traveler’s line of vision will trigger queasiness. If your car is low with curved or slanted windows, the visual distortion can prompt motion sickness. Wearing sunglasses or affixing window shades will alleviate brain panic.
Be prepared for accidents with sick bags and baking soda. Sick bags should be leak-proof plastic, secured at the top with a clip. If vomit lands on car upholstery, rub baking soda into it. The powder will clear odor and make cleanup easier. Designate a person who doesn’t get carsick to read maps or operate a GPS. Regarding night travel, driving in the dark makes it difficult to rest the eyes on points outside. Also, the brightness of headlights and street lights can be disorienting. As a driver, ward off motion sickness by training your eyes on tail lights and the road ahead.
If a passenger starts to show symptoms, coach them in taking slow, deep breaths with their eyes closed. Aim the air conditioning vent toward their face, and run it at high speed. Then, give them a whiff of peppermint. Have sick bags and baking soda at the ready. The driver should try to stay calm, pulling off the road when possible. Once the car has stopped, the carsick person should walk around or sit quietly until symptoms subside. Before they re-enter the vehicle, offer a cup of ginger tea.
Now, you’re an expert on carsickness. You know how to seat, occupy, and mollify passengers. To prepare for your next road trip, pack neck pillows, audio books, iPods, and CDs. Add a vial of peppermint oil, ginger tea bags, and chewing gum. Also, bring along healthy snacks that are easily digested. Don’t forget the sick bags and baking soda. One hour before departing, have all passengers eat a light meal, and take a B-complex vitamin. Affix your P6 wristbands, and you’re good to go!