9 Scientifically Proven Ways to Prevent Motion Sickness
By Suzanne Raga
Feeling dizzy, nauseated, and uncomfortable is never fun, especially when you’re traveling. Caused by sensory confusion—your eyes and inner ears get conflicting signals about the movement going on around you—motion sickness can affect anyone, in any type of moving vehicle. Because it’s easier to prevent motion sickness than to deal with its symptoms in the moment, here are nine tips to help ensure your trip is smooth sailing, even if the water is choppy.
1. DON’T TRAVEL ON AN EMPTY STOMACH…
Traveling on an empty stomach can make you more susceptible to motion sickness (even the Swiss Medical Services advise against traveling without snacking first). Try to eat something light 45 to 60 minutes before traveling. A small amount of peanut butter, crackers, pretzels, or turkey can help settle your stomach before embarking on your trip, making you less likely to vomit.
2. …AND CONTINUE TO EAT LIGHT, BLAND FOODS DURING YOUR TRIP.
Eat light snacks every few hours to keep food in your stomach. Whatever you eat should be bland and low in fat and acid: Greasy and spicy foods can trigger nausea, so it's best to avoid them before and during your trip. Likewise, avoid alcohol, which can act as a diuretic and lead to dehydration, another motion sickness exacerbator.
3. CHOOSE WHERE YOU SIT WISELY.
Where you sit can make all the difference. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's important to try to get a seat where you’ll feel the least amount of motion: In a car, this means the passenger seat rather than the back seat (if you can’t be the driver). On a train, sit toward the front, next to a window, and face forward (in the direction that the train is traveling). If the train (or bus) has two levels, sit on the lower level. If you’re on a ship, aim to get a cabin roughly at water level near the middle of the ship. And on an airplane, try to sit in the middle of the aircraft so that you’re over the front of either wing.
4. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery recommends that people who are prone to motion sickness sit in a forward-facing seat and avoid reading while traveling. Instead, focus your gaze on the horizon or a stationary object in the distance, like a mountain or street sign.
If you notice that you’re feeling dizzy while scrolling through your phone, put the phone down and look into the distance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that you reduce sensory input by lying down (if possible), looking at the horizon, or closing your eyes.
5. STRAP ON A WRISTBAND.
To combat nausea caused by motion sickness, it might help to wear a wristband that applies pressure to a specific spot on your wrist, the Pericardium 6 point. While current research fails to prove whether acupressure wristbands actually help nausea, the placebo effect of wearing one may be enough to keep you from getting nauseated. If you don’t have a wristband, you can press your wrist with your opposite hand’s thumb.
If you want something more high-tech, you could try the ReliefBand. This FDA-approved piece of wearable technology looks like a watch, but it sends electrical current through your wrist to fight nausea from motion sickness and morning sickness.
6. GET FRESH AIR.
Motion sickness can make you feel hot and sweaty, and the wind (or a vent of air blowing at you) can help you feel better. To stave off seasickness, stand outside (on the deck of the boat) in the cold air for a few minutes.
7. SWALLOW GINGER.
Many studies have proven ginger’s efficacy in preventing motion sickness. Whether you eat a piece of candied ginger, suck on a ginger-flavored lozenge, swallow a ginger root capsule, or drink ginger ale (a type that contains actual ginger), the spice might be your best ally. Peppermint candy or mint gum can also help quell motion sickness because it eases digestion.
8. TAKE MEDICINE.
According to CDC guidelines, antihistamine medications that cause drowsiness are the most effective medications to combat motion sickness. If you try an over-the-counter med such as Dramamine or Bonine, take it 30 minutes to an hour before you depart on a boat or train. If you suffer from severe motion sickness and are going on an extended trip (like a cruise), you can also get a prescription scopolamine patch to put behind your ear (this is recommended only for extreme cases, as it has not-so-fun side effects, like blurred vision).
9. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH.
If all else fails, and you’re caught in the throes of full-on motion sickness, focus on your breath. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one study showed that taking slow, calm, deep breaths in and out will distract you and center you. Tell yourself that you’ll be okay and relax as much as possible. Hopefully, you’ll be back on firm ground soon!