Movement sickness

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Last Medical Review: March 26, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
Motion sickness (travel sickness) (March 26, 2020)

What is movement sickness

By “motion sickness” or, more properly, motion sickness we mean that series of ailments that occur as a result of travel or travel on means of transport such as ships, planes, trains, cars. The disturbance is due to an excessive stimulation of the delicate balance structures located in the inner ear (vestibular apparatus), when the body is subjected to rapid stresses such as those induced by movement.

How it manifests itself

The first symptoms consist of a general state of malaise, with pallor, cold sweating, anxiety, which is often followed by nausea and uncontrollable and repeated vomiting. In some subjects there may be a slowing of the frequency of the heart rhythm, a drop in blood pressure, but sometimes also an increase in pressure, diarrhea, headache, abundant elimination of urine and dehydration.

What are the risks

Generally motion sickness disorders cease at the end of the journey and do not give rise to particular consequences. However, the problem should not be underestimated in people at risk, such as cardiac patients, in whom complications may arise, especially due to the strain on the chest caused by vomiting.

What should be done

  • Before going on a trip, take a light meal and eat a breadstick or a cracker from time to time, better without drinking;
  • settle in the most stable point of the vehicle (in the central area of ​​the ship, on the front seats of the car, at the wing of the plane) and distract yourself looking at the landscape, keeping your gaze at about 45 ° above the horizon;
  • especially for children it is important that they can be distracted by playing inside the passenger compartment;
  • do not read, limit the movements of the head and body (the supine or half-lying position with the head still is the best); avoid staring at waves or moving points;
  • don’t focus your thoughts on the fear of being sick;
  • avoid, if possible, harmful factors such as smoke, stale air, crowding and heat in the common rooms and ensure a continuous exchange of air.

There is obviously no valid solution for everyone. When personal experience shows that these measures are not sufficient, drugs should be used. Anticethetic drugs must be taken in time before starting the journey so that they can exert their preventive effect. There scopolamine it is used in the form of a transdermal patch. The drug is released by a special device, which must be applied behind the ear, in an area without hair, at least 2 hours before starting the journey (the maximum effectiveness is obtained after 6-8 hours from application). A patch remains effective for 3 days. You should never apply more than one patch at a time, nor cut it in half. After applying the patch, it is important to wash and dry your hands thoroughly, to prevent traces of the drug from inadvertently coming into contact with the eyes. The same precaution should be taken when removing the patch. If necessary, after 3 days you can reapply a new patch after having eliminated the one that is out of stock. The patch should not be applied to bruised skin, cuts or wounds. Those suffering from glaucoma or hypertrophy of the prostate should not use scopolamine. It can cause dry mouth, dilated pupil with consequent visual disturbances (more frequent after 24 hours of application), drowsiness (although to a much lesser extent than antihistamines), disorders that can continue even after removing the patch. The drug can, although rarely, cause mental confusion, agitation or disorientation, especially in the elderly and children. It is also important to avoid taking alcoholic beverages (increase the sleepiness produced by the drug) and other drugs that can cause drowsiness (ask for information about your doctor or pharmacist).

The dimenhydrinate it is an antihistamine drug. It is used in the form of tablets or suppositories (e.g. Valontan, Xamamina) or chewing gum (e.g. Travelgum). Its efficacy is comparable to that of scopolamine, but the duration of the effect of a single dose is limited to 4-6 hours (the intake can be repeated if the journey over protracts more). The drug should be taken at least 30 minutes before departure (even better if taken 1-2 hours before).

The possible ailments are those common to many antihistamines, namely drowsiness (be careful if you have to drive vehicles immediately after arriving at the place of destination), dry mouth, visual disturbances, constipation, urinary retention, especially in people with prostate disorders.

It is important to avoid taking other drugs with sedative effects on the nervous system at the same time, e.g. products to treat cold symptoms or insomnia pills. For the same reason, alcoholic beverages should be avoided.

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