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June 17th, 2010
01:18 PM ET

Motion sickness solutions

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Doan in Vietnam:

“Why do I always have car sickness and vomit a lot when I travel? Any ways to prevent this?”

Answer:
Doan, thanks for the question. I feel your pain. I fall victim to carsickness myself once in a while. Motion sickness can happen just about any time you're moving. Some people, like myself, get sick in a car. Others can be affected at an amusement park, at an IMAX theater, even when getting off a treadmill! It's all about conflicting messages. Think of it like that. Your entire body is always working to orient itself. Your eyes, your skin, your inner ear, your central nervous system all sending signals.

Here's how it works. Say you're in a car reading a book. Your inner ear, that's the control center for balance, well - it sort of figures out that you're moving. Now take a look at these canals specifically. They have fluid moving through them constantly. And that fluid sort of gives you an idea that, in fact, your body is moving. Meanwhile, your eyes, another key source of balance, see only the page of a book. And it's not moving, oops, a conflicting message. And that's when motion sickness can set in.

I for one get the most sick riding in the back seat of a car. If you’re looking straight ahead at the headrest, your brain starts to get a little confused, and  your visual system can’t keep up with the twists and turns the car is making.  Some people get a little sweaty, get a little nauseated and your heart starts to race.

Some people actually have trained with body sensors to tolerate the mismatch. For example if you grew up in the mountains your entire life-chances are driving on a twisty road wouldn't bother you. So for most people, the more you actually do the things that trigger your motion sickness, the less sick you'll get in the long run.

In the meantime, an over-the-counter antihistamines can help control the symptoms. They get rid of some of the acid in your stomach to take care of the nausea. Simply taking ginger or soda can also help settle your stomach or  opening a window to get some fresh air–that may offer some benefit. But what you really need to do is get behind the wheel and drive the car yourself when available. Now you're in control and your eyes and your ears are all matching up and you can handle all those twists and turns.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.