Travel sickness (also known as motion sickness or kinetosis) describes a set of symptoms resulting from a disruption of the sense of balance. Despite the name it’s not really a form of sickness: it’s a normal, harmless reaction of the body. The brain receives a constant stream of different signals on the position and movement of our bodies and the movements of the world around us. On longer car, train, boat or plane journeys these different sense impressions can get conflicted and send contradictory information to the brain. Frequent symptoms are dizziness, headache, cold sweats and nausea, even vomiting. Many people suffer from travel sickness, Children aged between two and twelve are most commonly affected, but basically it can strike anyone with a healthy sense of balance.
There are various things you can do to prevent travel sickness.
In the car
If you’re sensitive it’s best to sit in the passenger seat or in the middle of the back seat. You should look ahead through the windscreen, focusing on objects in the far distance. Avoid activities like reading that involve looking down. The driver should try to keep the speed as constant as possible and avoid roads with a lot of bends. Important: make frequent stops to get some fresh air. Having firm ground beneath your feet gives your sense of balance a chance to calm down.
On the train
It’s best to sit in a window seat facing forwards. Focus on a fixed point on the horizon. There’s no chance of stopping for some fresh air on the train, so it’s a good idea to walk up and down the aisle.
On the boat
If you’re prone to seasickness it’s best to stay in the central section of the ship and out in the fresh air on deck or as low down as possible. The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less roll and sway you will experience. On deck you should fix your gaze on a point on the horizon.
On a flight
The best place to sit on a plane is over the wings or in the front of the aircraft, preferably in an aisle seat. That way you can walk around if you need to.
It’s important to eat something small before your journey. Make sure your stomach’s not too full or too empty – that only makes travel sickness worse. Ideal are low-fat meals, for example a sandwich or fruit salad. Steer clear of alcohol the day you travel and the day before. Caffeine also makes things worse.
There are various forms of medication you can take for travel sickness, for example chewing gum with an antihistamine. Make sure anything you give your kids is suitable for children.