As we move into the heart of the summer, it’s time for many folks to partake in the great American tradition of a road trip. The road trip is a great way to see the country free from the pressures of the daily commute. This is a great pastime for many, but for those who wrestle with car sickness, staying home seems like a much better way to spend their summer vacation.
What Is Car Sickness?
The biology of car sickness all starts, believe it or not, in the ear. Fluid filled tubes in the inner ear called the semicircular canals communicate to the brain where your head is oriented in space. The fluid is pulled downward by gravity and presses down on tiny hairs telling the brain whether the head is still or in motion and whether it is straight, tilted or moving in one direction or another. If the fluid is disturbed, the brain can become confused as to where the head is. Confused? Maybe this will help.
If you ever spun around quickly, you have disturbed this fluid. When you stop spinning, the years continue to tell the brain that the head is in motion even though it isn’t. For a short while, signals from the ears are in conflict with signals from the eyes. When the years are telling the brain that the head is in motion, but the eyes are telling the brain that it is not, the result is a feeling of dizziness. Similarly, those who suffer from car sickness experienced this same sensory confusion. The ears sense the motion of the car while the eyes are locked onto a fixed point. These mixed signals can result in nausea and enjoying the ride becomes impossible.
Tricks to Keep Car Sickness at Bay
There are some ways to minimize the effects of car sickness. Try some of these and you may find that the trip can be as fun as the destination.
- Avoid writing in the back seat as you are more likely to get sick there. The further back in the vehicle you are, the more motion you will feel. If you are in the back, be sure you are in a position to be able to see outside.
- The effects of the car’s motion are also felt more strongly if you are seated facing backward. Make sure to always space in the direction that the car is driving.
- If the queasiness begins, open a window for some fresh air.
- Avoid focusing on things inside the car such as reading a book. Looking outside helps your eyes tell your brain that you are in motion.
- Take along some gum, mints or crackers to help offset the nausea
- Talk to your doctor. There are many medications available that can ease the effects of car sickness.
- If you are traveling with a car sick child, find ways to direct their attention outside the car. Maybe play a game with them involving license plates or finding the alphabets on billboards.
- Don’t avoid eating before hitting the road. The symptoms of car sickness are harder to deal with on an empty stomach.
If you do find yourself becoming carsick, don’t ignore the feeling. It is important to pull over and give your brain the opportunity to reset. Don’t risk a ticket (or worse) by speeding up to get the trip over with faster.