April 2014 ISSUE

 

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Motion Sickness
That’s your brain trying to process mixed messages when you’re in motion. Almost half of all shuttle astronauts suffer from space motion sickness. A substantial percentage of pilots confess to feeling air sick and when the seas turn rough on board a cruise ship, there’s virtually no one left standing.
“Motion sickness is essentially the same entity, whether it’s car sickness or sea sickness,” says Dr. David Goldberg, internist and infectious disease specialist.

That queasy feeling represents a fundamental failure of communication. The body relies on the inner ear, the eyes and the nerves located in joints, especially those in the ankles, spine and knees, to decide where we are in space and transmit the message to the brain.
“Motion sickness seems to occur when the body receives contradictory sensory information about its position or movement through space. It seems to correlate more with the ‘rockiness’ of the trip than with the speed or duration,” says Dr. Goldberg.

Reading in a car, for example, can contribute to the sending of mixed messages as the eyes focus all their attention on something that’s seemingly stationary, while the ears and joints are busy recording movement. The resulting mismatched signals cause confusion in the brain and generate a number of unpleasant symptoms.

Wooziness, sweating, yawning, excessive saliva production, loss of color, nausea, vomiting — the symptoms persist as long as the sensation lasts or until the brain finally figures things out, which generally takes between 36 to 72 agonizing hours. Upset of the GI tract is the most typical response, although research suggests that some people experience motion sickness differently, suffering instead from sleepiness, lethargy, depression and a general feeling of being unwell.

“Some people are more susceptible than others. In general, children tend to be less susceptible than adults — that’s why they can tolerate all those amusement park rides. It tends to occur more often in women, especially during pregnancy or menstruation,” says Dr. Goldberg.

The first trip — whether boat or plane or merry-go-round — appears to generate the worst response as the brain struggles to make sense of a new and jarring experience, although subsequent episodes of motion sickness can be triggered by memory.

Don’t Rock the Boat:

“There’s no cure for motion sickness, but there are a number of techniques for keeping the symptoms to a minimum,” says Dr. Goldberg, who offers these suggestions:
  • Choose seats that offer the smoothest ride.
  • Minimize head and body movements.
  • Fix eyes on the horizon or another stable distant object.
  • Avoid reading.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Perform mental activity.
  • Avoid alcohol and large meals (stay away from foods high in sodium, protein and calories).
  • Lie down if necessary.
  • There are a variety of helpful medications, some with side effects and subject to individual health considerations, so consult your doctor or pharmacist.
  • For longer trips, such as cruises or boat rides, a patch can be applied every three days to the skin behind the ear.
  • Ginger is extremely helpful in reducing motion sickness for some people.
Kids’ Stuff:

Almost 60% of children get carsick. Children between the ages of four and 10 are especially susceptible but babies are rarely afflicted. Motion sickness tends to be a hereditary condition, so if either you or your spouse suffered as a child, chances are your children will as well. There are some steps you can take to prevent the family vacation from becoming a nightmare:
  • Encourage kids to look outside. Position children so they can see over the back seat and out the window.
  • Avoid braking. Drive on major highways whenever possible for a smoother ride.
  • Make frequent stops.
  • Make sure there’s fresh air circulating.
  • Discourage reading.
  • Consult your doctor for advice regarding medications or pressure-point wristbands.
Before attempting any exercise or diet modification, always consult a fitness or medical professional.
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