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Motion sickness

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Motion sickness is a common condition experienced by traveling individuals wherein visually perceived movement and the sense of movement of the vestibular system is not relating accordingly. It may also be called kinetosis referring to carsickness, seasickness, airsickness, space sickness or stimulation sickness. The brain senses movement from what the eyes, inner ears, muscles and joints perceive. However, if the signals do not match or for example, the eyes sense motion but the inner ears do not, motion sickness occurs. A number of symptoms would then arise like dizziness, nausea and cold sweats.

MOTION SICKNESS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

About one-third of all people in the United States are prone to motion sickness even in very mild situations. Two-thirds can easily develop the condition in more severe situations. Half of American astronauts have actually suffered from space sickness. People and animals with a dysfunctional vestibular system are not affected by motion sickness at all. There are several ways to overcome the feeling when traveling in cars, planes, trains and boats so individuals may learn preventive and treatment methods.

A person experiencing motion sickness will most likely manifest a variety of symptoms. Nausea, dizziness and fatigue are the most common ones. In the beginning the individual may start developing a headache and have cold sweats. As long as the motion initiating the adverse response remains constant, the person may then start to vomit. The difference is that vomiting in this case does not relieve the nauseous feeling. The person will continue to sweat and feel dizzy with body malaise or general unpleasant sensation throughout.

Mild symptoms include yawning, mild feeling of uneasiness, dizziness, headache and cold sweats which may then later on progress to nausea, pallor, drooling, shortness of breath, vertigo, drowsiness and vomiting. A rare symptom would be spontaneously having flashbacks. These symptoms and motion sickness itself is actually a compensatory mechanism of the body to try and retain fluid back to normal levels and prevent toxin buildup. In some occasions, motion sickness may also be a symptom of an underlying condition such as perilymphatic fistula and cyclic vomiting syndrome.

MOTION SICKNESS CAUSES

Types of motion sickness may be named after the medium causing the differences in perception and signals namely airsickness, seasickness, carsickness, space sickness and simulation sickness. Carsickness is the most common type induced by land travel in cars, trains, buses and the like. The conflict between perceived and received signals between the brain and the body causes the reaction variance. Airsickness is induced by air travel wherein the central nervous system receives conflicting signals from what the body perceives causing a change in balance and equilibrium. It is considered normal among healthy individuals since the body tries to adjust to the change in altitude and pressure.

Seasickness is induced by water travel due to constant rocking motion of boats and other watercraft. Extreme situations can also lead to extreme symptoms like vertigo, shortness of breath and recurrent vomiting. Space sickness is only experienced by astronauts in spacecraft as the body tries to adjust to different pressure, gravitational pull and airspace. Simulation sickness is the manifestation of symptoms similar to motion sickness due to spending long hours on a simulator or computer. The illusion of motion provided onscreen or by actual moving simulators causes the inner ear to perceive things differently from the eyes and muscles.

MOTION SICKNESS PREVENTION

A number of medications have shown to be quite useful in treating and preventing motion sickness. Over-the-counter antihistamine drugs like Bonine, Dramamine and Antivert can block signals sent from the inner ear to the vomiting center of the brain. There are also prescription anti-nausea and anti-emetic or anti-vomiting drugs available which are usually taken about 30 to 60 minutes before traveling. It will be too late to prevent symptoms if people only take the drugs upon experiencing the initial signs. These should not be taken by individuals under 12 years of age as well as others with underlying health conditions unless stated otherwise by a doctor.

MOTION SICKNESS TREATMENT

There is a transdermal treatment available as well using scopolamine patches. A patch is placed behind the ear about 4 hours before traveling and replaced every 3 days. The skin gradually absorbs the medication for later results. This may be contraindicated among individuals under 12 years old, pregnant women and nursing mothers and those with kidney, liver or bladder problems.

More natural remedies include ingestion or chewing ginger 1 to 1 1/2 hours prior to traveling. Some people claim that taking sugary treats like candy or a spoonful of brown sugar can minimize the effects. Seating position or stance in cars, boats and aircraft may also help a lot in reducing the symptoms. Allow the person to breathe some cool fresh air by opening a window or letting him or her stick his or her head out. Looking outside or lying down with the feet elevated may also help restore normal fluid levels. Acupressure bands, electrical stimulation of the median nerve and acupuncture have also been proposed to work well for motion sickness. For people who constantly experience the problem, they may want to try physical therapy, breathing exercises and balancing techniques to cope with environmental changes during travel.


If the person experiences motion sickness frequently, it may help to take anti-nausea medications or apply a scopolamine patch prior to traveling as preventive measure. Eating before travel may also help but be careful not to be very full to prevent vomiting episodes. Upon embarking, look for a comfortable spot, preferably one with access to cool fresh air and a great view of the horizon where the eyes can gaze and focus on for long hours. If traveling means remaining seated for several hours, get some form of exercise to facilitate circulation to all body parts like walking along the aisle, breathing deeply and stretching limbs.

Drinking fluids and blowing through your pinched nose to allow pressure to move out of the inner ears will help prevent motion sickness. Avoid smoking, alcohol and high-fat foods while traveling. Do not read if you’re susceptible to motion sickness or make sure that you’re in an upright position with adequate light before attempting to read. Do not sit opposite to the transportation’s direction of travel. Some people experience motion sickness upon seeing or listening to others talk about feeling nauseous. Divert your attention to different things instead.
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