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Don't Let Motion Sickness Ruin Summer Fun

You used to be the first one on the swings as a kid, but now the thought of anything with too much movement makes you feel a little queasy.

You can’t always avoid doing the things that cause motion sickness. Sometimes traveling by plane or car is enough to make your stomach feel queasy. Or if your family is going on a trip deep-sea fishing or a to a theme park you may have to decide whether you want to miss out on the fun, or go and possibly feel nauseous the whole time.

If you’ve cut back on your activities because you’re worried about getting sick, it might be time to examine your options for motion sickness.

Drugstore Options

“Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines are commonly used to prevent motion sickness but everyone responds differently to them,” said Christine Chun, FNP, from Samaritan Depoe Bay Clinic. “Don’t be afraid to try a couple brands to find the one that works best for you.”

The active ingredients to look for are dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), meclizine (Antivert, Bonine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). The side effects of an antihistamine often include drowsiness. There are versions or ingredients that may make you less drowsy, like meclizine, but Chun notes that non-sedating antihistamines don’t seem to be as effective at treating motion sickness.

If you need to prevent motion sickness for only a short time, like a car ride, Chun recommends trying a half dose. For example with Benadryl, take 12.5mg instead of 25mg. This can reduce your risk of drowsiness but still offer relief from nausea.

Try a Prescription

If you haven’t had good success with an OTC antihistamine or you need to use the medication all day, talk to your clinician about a prescription for an antihistamine that lasts up to 12 hours. For even longer relief, a medicated patch is available that can be placed behind the ear and lasts as long as three days. You can replace the patch as often as needed during your trip. A My Chart E-Visit offers a quick and convenient way to request a prescription for motion sickness.

Nonpharmaceutical Remedies

Chun reports that there are limited studies on the effectiveness of alternative treatments, but the following remedies may help.

  • Suck on ginger candy or take 1-2 grams of dried ginger root. Look for ginger candy in the candy aisle or with digestive aids in the pharmacy section.
  • Use acupressure wrist bands on one or both wrists.
  • Try aromatherapy a few drops of lavender, ginger or peppermint oil in a diffuser.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Practice mindful breathing and muscle relaxation.
  • If possible, look at the horizon or close your eyes to reduce sensory input.
  • Sit where there is less movement the front of a car or bus, over the wing by the window of an airplane, and close to the waterline in a boat.
  • Breathe cool, fresh air.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before.
  • Avoid greasy or heavy foods, which are slower to digest, and spicy foods, which may irritate the stomach. Acidic foods like orange juice or coffee may also aggravate feelings of nausea. Don’t have an empty stomach, but choose bland foods like crackers, bread, applesauce, rice or herbal tea.

No matter what option you choose to help stop motion sickness, you’ll get the best results if you are proactive and take steps to prevent it before you actually begin to feel sick. If you are using medication, allow 30-60 minutes for it to begin working before you need it. Be sure to try the medication at home in a comfortable environment first to see how your body reacts.

For continual motion activities like a cruise, many people acclimate after a day or two and no longer experience motion sickness symptoms, according to Chun.

She also notes that the risk of suffering from motion sickness decreases if you don’t expect to become ill.

“Some part of both pharmaceutical and alternative therapies is the placebo effect,” Chun said. “Whatever you choose to try, believing that it will work will help.”

If you need a prescription for motion sickness, a MyChart E-Visit can connect you with a Samaritan health care provider online from the comfort of your own home.