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Travel sickness remedies

Adrienne Wyper / 26 July 2017 ( 13 October 2020 )

If you suffer motion sickness when travelling, take a look at our round-up of self-help and remedies for travel sickness in the UK.

Ginger tea may help with feelings of queasiness.
Ginger tea may help with feelings of queasiness.

Suffering from motion sickness isn’t the best start to a long-awaited break, if you’re travelling by car, coach, train, boat or plane.

All types stem from the same cause: the brain can’t resolve conflicting information from your eyes and ears.

If you’re sitting inside a ship with no view of the water or horizon, your eyes perceive that you’re not moving. However, the message from your ears’ balance mechanism is that you are moving. And in a car, your eyes register that you’re moving, while your ears send the signal that you’re sitting still.

If you’re sitting inside a ship with no view of the water or horizon, your eyes perceive that you’re not moving. However, the message from your ears’ balance mechanism is that you’re moving. And in a car, your eyes register that you’re moving, while your ears send the signal that you’re sitting still.

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Symptoms include:

  • mild queasiness or vomiting
  • pale skin
  • cold sweat
  • dizziness
  • increased salivation
  • headache

Women and children tend to be more likely to have motion sickness. Most of us grow out of it, but there around a million sufferers in the UK. Some experience motion sickness on fairground rides, or even watching fast-paced films!

Several tried-and-tested tips – and traditional and complementary remedies – can help minimise symptoms..

  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before travelling.
  • Stay in the most stable part of the boat or plane, generally the middle. A neck pillow to keep your head still can also help.
  • If possible, get plenty of fresh air: sit outside on deck, open a window, get out of the vehicle when possible.
  • Look at the horizon, or another unmoving reference point, or close your eyes. Focusing on nearby objects, such as your phone, tablet or Kindle, or reading, can make you feel worse.

Treating motion sickness with ginger

Used for centuries as an anti-nausea remedy, ginger has been the focus of several studies, but results for motion sickness appear inconclusive. However, anecdotal evidence is strong, and there are unlikely to be side-effects. Enjoy this warming, stomach-settling spice in many ways: make tea from sliced root ginger, sip ginger beer, nibble a ginger biscuit, chew on a chocolate ginger. You can also buy ginger in capsule form.

Learn more about the health properties of ginger

Wristbands for travel sickness

Not the towelling type sported by tennis players, but acupressure wristbands with a plastic button that presses on the Pericardium 6 or Nei Guan point. These don’t cause drowsiness, and can be reused. A pair of Sea-Band Nausea Relief wristbands – you wear both – costs around £8, although other brands are available.

You can also try pressing the point manually. Hold your hand palm up, then place your three middle fingers on your wrist, with your ring finger on the crease. The P6 point is under your index fingertip. You may feel a slight tingling when you apply pressure.

Feel wobbly on water? Find out more about avoiding seasickness

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Antihistamines for motion sickness

This group of medicines is often used to treat symptoms of allergies, and relieve reactions to bites and stings. Speak to a pharmacist or your GP before taking antihistamines if you’re taking other medication.

They’re less effective than hyoscine but may cause fewer side-effects.

Cinnarizine is the active ingredient in Stugeron. This chemical works on the brain’s vomiting centre, preventing it from receiving nerve messages from the inner ear. Cinnarizine may cause drowsiness.

Promethazine is another antihistamine, which works in the same way, and is marketed as Phenergan and Avomine. Take Phenergan in tablet form,or, if you have difficulty in swallowing pills, as an elixir. Avomine comes in tablet form.

Hyoscine for motion sickness

This medication, also known as scopolamine, is used to treat post-operative nausea, as well as motion sickness. It’s found in over-the-counter treatments including Kwells and patches, to apply to the skin behind the ear five to six hours before travelling.

Please remember: read the small print of medications and devices carefully, and consider your own circumstances. If you are taking any other medication or are using a medical device, take extra care and consult your doctor and your pharmacist if you are not sure about the suitability of a product.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.