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How To Avoid and Manage Car Motion Sickness

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Sick of being car sick? Here’s how to avoid motion sickness!

Car sickness is not just something that affects kiddies, and you’ll be acutely aware of this if you happen to suffer from it yourself. It’s energy-zapping, embarrassing and one of those things that can turn the most jovial of road trips into an all-out vom-fest if you don’t know how to handle it.

Here are some tips on how to alleviate the most annoying of afflictions.

How to Avoid Car Sickness

What exactly is car sickness?

Car sickness is a type of motion sickness that affects a small-ish percentage of travellers, and can manifest itself in symptoms including fatigue, sweating, nausea, headaches and dizziness. Experts are still a little bamboozled as to exactly how it occurs, but think it has something to do with your brain receiving conflicting info from your eyes, body and inner ears. Contrary to popular belief, car sickness is not just suffered by children, people who get migraines or women who are ‘with child’, and if you get it, you’re unfortunately one of the not-so-lucky ones.

So how can you help knock this annoying, misery-guts-sickness on its head?

Sit in the front seat

Opting for a back seat party spot is definitely not a wise choice if you get car sick, as continually viewing the seat (and the back of the shaggy head) in front of you can throw off your inner ear’s ability to sense proper balance, thus leading to dizziness and nausea (and possibly haircut envy).

Bagging the reins in the driver’s seat is your best bet as it will help distract you, but if that’s not an option, facing forward in the passenger seat with your eyes focused on a stable point on the horizon will help your body and your eyes interpret the same information (you’ll look like a weirded out zombie though…).

It also helps to keep your head still, so propping your noggin on the headrest is a good idea, as is asking your driving mate to avoid bumpy roads and rally car driving manoeuvres if at all possible. And if you’re really feeling it, throw all bad manners out the (open) window and try shutting your eyes every now and then (although with some people this can make things worse).

Better still, take the hardened-up lead and get a bit of carpool karaoke going on. You’ll forget all about your flip-flopping gut issues before you know it.

Keep cool

Keeping the car windows open for a spot of breezy fresh air (and taking in some deep breaths of the stuff) can definitely help with the sweating and nausea, as can cranking the AC and pointing the vents directly at your face. Practice your hair flicks while you’re at it.

Watch out for car fumes and strong food smells as well (give your face-stuffing, takeaway-eating companion the heads up) as these will just up the symptoms even more.

Take a break

Stop frequently (every 15 to 30 minutes is ideal) and make sure you actually get out of the car and stretch your legs. Time it with wee stops and it’s a win-win. Pick your spot as well – a service station full of petrol and fatty fast food aromas ain’t going to help.

How to Manage Motion Sickness

You’ll also need to ditch the mobile, the tablet, the e-reader (and/or the old-fashioned novel) because concentrating on a visual object within a moving vehicle is just going to seal the saliva-inducing deal. Audio books, music or even daggy childhood car games are better options and are probably a bit more sociable too.

Fun with food

Try not to travel on either an empty stomach or just after a big chow down (especially a greasy one), and if you stop for a meal break, resist the urge to gorge yourself on roadhouse rubbish (even though eating junk food is one of the highlights of a road trip).

In-car snacks are good – simple stuff like crackers, trail mixes, carrot sticks (what???) and high-protein stuff like hard-boiled eggs (beware the stinky factor) can all help quell the hunger, and chewing gum and eating anything with ginger in it (think lollies, ginger biscuits or fizzy ginger beer) will all help settle the tum.

Hydration helps

If you’ve got a touch of the ‘thirsty koalas’ then you’re definitely dehydrated – that’s not a good thing at the best of times. Sip on water occasionally, lay off the caffeine and alcoholic ‘travellers’, and (you already know this) don’t have a belter the night before. There’s nothing worse than facing an endlessly long road trip with a murdering hangover.

Hey Doc

Your GP may be able to offer you some over-the-counter solutions that will either calm your inner ear’s nerves or soothe your brain’s vomit centre (nice visual). These include antihistamines that dull your inner ear’s motion sensors, but you’ll need to take them at least half an hour before you set out.

Medicines for Car Sickness

The doc may also be able to give you a prescription for an anticholinergic, which will basically block the neurotransmitters in your nervous system (heavy sounding stuff eh?), but they can cause drowsiness, so make sure you do your research before giving them a go. Passing out mid-trip is not a good look.

Some people swear by motion sickness bands, which work by providing constant pressure to your wrists, but the scientific jury’s out on whether they work or not. They’re also hideously grandparent-like, but worth considering if you’re really struggling.

Have a plan

If the down side to your road trip experience is normally you with your head down (possibly stuck by the side of a freeway), then it’s worth planning things in advance. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medication options, lay off the booze and fatty foods pre-trip, get heaps of fresh air and water while you’re on the road, and distract yourself with music or other audio stimulation (a decent game of Have You Ever with tight-lipped friends can do wonders).

The good news

Unfortunately car sickness does target certain people who are sensitive to certain kinds of motion and sometimes even the best-planned treatments actually do nothing, however the good news is that repeated or long-term exposure to motion can actually help your brain adapt over time.

So toughen up, turn that frown upside down and make this year your year for road trip frenzy-ness.

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