You’ve booked the time off work. The car’s loaded up, the tank is full, and the tires have been topped-up. You’ve done a great job preparing your vehicle for a smooth journey down the highway, but what about your passengers?
Motion sickness can ruin a vacation before you’ve even arrived at your destination. But, just as with all of your car-focused preparations, an ounce of prevention can help ensure that everyone in the vehicle has a comfortable ride, free from queasiness. Motion sickness is known by a number of names, car sickness, sea sickness, air sickness and motion maladaption syndrome. The incidence varies depending on the magnitude of stimulus. It also, typically, affects women more than men with rates dramatically increasing during pregnancy and menstruation.  Motion sickness is rare amongst infants less then two years of age and tends to peak amongst children between the ages of three and 1. 
Motion sickness stems from conflicting signals in the brain – a discrepancy between what the balance centre in the inner ear perceives and what the eyes are seeing. That’s why airline passengers who can’t see out the window or travelers below deck on a boat can often start feeling nauseous: the brain knows they’re moving around, but they can’t see where they’re going while they’re being buffeted by the winds or waves.
The same thing can happen in the car, particularly if people prone to motion sickness (younger children tend to be particularly susceptible) are sitting in the back seat where they can’t see out the windshield, or if they are reading or looking at a laptop computer during the drive.
Whether young children or adults, those who have a track record of queasiness on the road should be seated up front. Encourage them to enjoy the scenery or, in the case of kids, to play “I Spy” type games which will keep them focused visually outside the vehicle, instead of on a book, video game or portable DVD player.
Taking an anti-nauseant such as Gravol is an excellent idea. However, it’s important that you take any anti-nauseant medication before leaving home, 30 minutes to an hour before departing.
What about drivers who suffer from motion sickness, who are worried about taking medication that can lead or cause drowsiness?
Fortunately, there is now Gravol Ginger which is made from ginger root – a natural remedy long known for its anti-nauseant properties that does not cause drowsiness. It comes in tablet form and also in chewable lozenges, which can be especially useful if motion sickness strikes during the journey and water may not be readily available.
Clinical studies that test the efficacy of ginger in treating nausea symptoms have shown that ginger root reduces motion sickness and vomiting.  Each tablet of Gravol Ginger contains 500 mg of ginger root which is equivalent to eating a 1-inch-square piece of peeled fresh ginger. 
So whether it’s thinking ahead about who sits where in the car, or taking a tablet before leaving home, planning and prevention are the key words when it comes to minimizing the risk of motion sickness this travel season.
Wherever you’re heading, bon voyage and travel safe!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 6: Non-infectious risks during travel. Motion Sickness.
- Ginger. What is the Evidence? American Cancer Society. www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3X_Ginger.asp?
- Best Vitamins for Women. Elizabeth Somer, RD. Prevention.com.
About the author:
Dr. Fay Weisberg is a staff specialist at Sunnybrook & Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.