Published July 24, 2012
Focusing on a Fixed Point
Best for: Mild dizziness and general nausea.
How it works: Motion sickness occurs when the ways your brain and your inner ear perceive movement don’t match up. Your inner ear can sense that you’re moving, but if your eyes are focused inside the vehicle (on the dashboard, for example), they will send a signal to your brain that you aren’t moving, says Michael Zimring, M.D., the director of travel medicine at Mercy Medical Center, in Baltimore. Looking at a stationary spot outside the vehicle—say, a building in the distance—helps your inner ear and brain get in sync.
Good to know: Sit in the front seat if you can so it will be easier to focus on an object outside the vehicle.
Best for: An upset stomach.
How it works: According to Chinese medicine, acupressure can balance the flow of energy in the body, or chi, and nausea is a sign of disharmony of chi. According to a 1995 study published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, people who performed acupressure on their wrists reported reduced motion sickness. Use your thumb to press your inner arm three finger widths (about two inches) down from your wrist crease. Hold for a few minutes, until symptoms subside.
Good to know: For a hands-free option, try the Sea-Band motion-sickness wristband ($10, sea-band.com). A small bead attached to the wristband exerts continuous gentle pressure.
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Best for: People who prefer an herbal remedy.
How it works: This spicy root aids digestion, which quells nausea. A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology found that people who took a ginger supplement before going on a simulated amusement-park ride were less nauseated than those who didn’t. Pop a 1,000- to 2,000-milligram supplement about an hour before your trip, says Julie Chen, a physician in San Jose, California.
Good to know: Ginger can thin the blood, so consult your doctor first if you’re on blood-pressure medication.
Best for: Severe symptoms, such as vomiting.
How they work: “These drugs block the signals at some of the areas in the brain that control nausea and vomiting,” says Dale Amanda Tylor, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville. Try dimenhydrinate (found in Original Dramamine), meclizine (in Bonine), or diphenhydramine (in Benadryl). Swallow the recommended dose about an hour before travel.
Good to know: Talk to your doctor before taking antihistamines if you have asthma, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, or glaucoma, as the ingredients can be dangerous to some people with these conditions. Antihistamines can also make you sleepy, so avoid taking them if you’re driving.
Best for: Trips lasting a full day or more.
How it works: The patch, sold under the brand name Transderm Scōp, contains the drug scopolamine. Worn behind the ear, it works similarly to antihistamines—by interfering with the communication between nerves and the part of the brain that controls vomiting. But it’s longer-lasting than antihistamines, releasing a steady dose of medication over three days, says Brent Rieger, an internist at Loyola University Medical Center, in Chicago. Apply the patch at least four hours before travel.
Good to know: Wash your hands thoroughly after applying, as the medication can temporarily blur your vision if it gets in your eyes.
Best for: People who experience both motion sickness and migraines.
How it works: Roughly 12 million women who suffer from migraines also battle motion sickness. Experts suspect that the same part of the brainstem plays a role in both conditions, says Tylor. According to a 2011 study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, rizatriptan—the only migraine medication specifically shown to reduce motion sickness—lessened motion-sickness symptoms in 87 percent of patients with migraines. The medication may fend off nausea by regulating serotonin, which is thought to be linked to migraine-related pain. Take the recommended dose about two hours before travel.
Good to know: Side effects can include dry mouth and drowsiness.