What Causes Travel Sickness and What Can You Do to Combat It?

Feeling sick or dizzy after a car journey? Chances are you have a case of travel sickness, a condition that affects lots of people when travelling by car, train, bus, plane or boat.

Travel sickness, or motion sickness, can be a real pain, making trips out in the car unbearable for sufferers. It’s most common in children, so family holidays can often be an issue for young travellers.

In this guide we’ll look at ways to ease travel sickness, as well as its causes and symptoms.

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What Are the Symptoms of Travel Sickness?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of travel sickness.

You could have any of the following:

  • Feeling sick or being sick
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating (often a cold sweat)
  • Lots of saliva
  • Headache
  • Burping
  • Feeling a bit rubbish in general

Although the symptoms of travel sickness can be very unpleasant, the good news is that they don’t last long. Most people start feeling better as soon as they stop moving, with the most severe symptoms usually going away within four hours.

travel sick womanHow to Ease Travel Sickness

There’s no cure for travel sickness, but there are ways to help ease its severity and reduce the symptoms. Here are some things to try the next time you’re feeling queasy:

  • Don’t read, watch films or use a smartphone while travelling. Focusing on close-up objects is one of the biggest triggers of motion sickness.
  • Instead look at objects, landmarks or buildings that are a long way away; this will help keep your head still. Don’t however watch moving objects, like passing cars, as this could make the problem worse.
  • If possible open the car windows to get some fresh air. Breathe slowly and focus on each breath.
  • Don’t eat rich, spicy foods before travelling.
  • Schedule regular stops to get fresh air and drink some water.
  • If your children suffer from travel sickness, have them sit in the middle seat of the car so they don’t ‘roll’ as much when you turn corners.
  • Distract children with music, talking or games; anything to take their mind off feeling ill. The reason why few drivers suffer from travel sickness is because their mind is distracted.

While simple remedies like these might work for some people, others may have to take a medication to reduce the symptoms of travel sickness. A pharmacist can recommend different medicines based on your symptoms, including tablets, patches or bands.

What Causes Travel Sickness?

Travel sickness occurs when repetitive motion causes the inner ear to send signals to the brain which are different from what your eyes are seeing. Bumps, swerves or the up-and-down motion of being on a boat can all trigger this in-ear problem.

And it isn’t just the signals from your eyes and ears which can confuse the brain. As you subconsciously tense muscles while travelling, to keep yourself balanced and upright, this also adds to the conflicting messages your brain is receiving – further adding to the problem.

woman feeling unwell in car

Travel sickness is difficult to treat because it’s a sensory problem. Your brain is receiving lots of mixed messages from different parts of your body, which ultimately cause you to feel sick and dizzy.

That’s why staying still, listening to music and closing your eyes can be so useful at easing the severity of travel sickness. You’re essentially reducing the number of sensory messages your brain receives and are less likely to start feeling sick or dizzy.

Is There a Cure for Travel Sickness?

There’s no permanent cure for travel sickness, but a pharmacist can recommend medicines which can reduce the chances of getting it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you’re less likely to get motion sickness as you get older, as your brain becomes more accustomed to dealing with all the messages it receives as you travel.

Who Gets Travel Sickness?

About 1 in 3 people get travel sickness, making it one of the most common conditions in the UK. While anyone can get it at any age, children are the most susceptible, and pregnant women can also suffer from it worse than others.

stressed child in her car seatWhat Type of Driving is Most Likely to Cause Travel Sickness?

Although it’s impossible to stop your passengers feeling sick, there are a few things to note about how, when and where you drive that could reduce the likelihood of them feeling ill:

  • People are more likely to feel ill on winding, hilly roads, so try to plan your journey around motorways and A-roads wherever possible.
  • Speeding can make motion sickness worse, so take things steady around corners and avoid sudden swerves.
  • Make sure your tyres are always fully inflated; this will help reduce body roll.
  • Driving in the dark can be a big trigger for motion sickness, so avoid this if your passengers are prone to feeling sick and dizzy.
  • Travelling in hot weather is also something to bear in mind. Although you can’t avoid trips in the summer, be sure to use the a/c or open a window when you can to keep your passengers cool.

We hope you’ve appreciated this guide on the causes and symptoms of travel sickness, and how to prevent it. Looking for more from Holts? Click here for our blog or to browse our complete product range, visit the homepage today.

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