Air and sea sickness

Give travel sickness the heave ho

If you're tired of fretting throughout your flight, and wondering if you can lock yourself in the plane toilet for the duration, here's how to keep your stomach settled while you're on the go.

Woman suffering from air sickness

What causes motion sickness?

We sense motion in our brains through several different pathways in our nervous systems, including our inner ears, our eyes, and the tissues on the surface of our bodies.

When we move intentionally - for example, when we're walking - all of the inputs from these different pathways 'match up' and there's no conflict between them.

However, we get motion sickness when the nervous system receives different messages from our inner ears, eyes, skin pressure receptors and muscle/joint sensory receptors.

For example, if you're experiencing turbulence on a plane, your inner ears sense up and down movement. But your eyes see a static view, as if you're not moving at all. It's thought the conflict between these 2 messages leads to travel sickness.

How to avoid travel sickness

Before you travel: 

  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol.
  • Make sure you've eaten lightly and you've got plenty of water with you.
  • Remember that you can take empty water bottles through airport security, and fill them up again once you're in the departures lounge.
  • If travel sickness makes you anxious, speak to your GP about anti-anxiety medication.
  • Buy travel sickness bands and stock up on motion sickness medicine.
  • If you can, book seats in the middle of the boat or plane, where there's less motion.

When you're travelling:

  • If you can, look straight ahead at a fixed point, such as the horizon.
  • Keep your breathing even and steady, and focus on deep, slow breaths.
  • Keep sick bags handy, so you don't panic if you need to vomit.
  • If someone else travelling with you also gets motion sickness, make sure that you're sat away from them.
  • Chew gum or suck on mints to keep your mouth feeling fresh.
  • Open air vents if you're travelling by plane. If you're on a boat, head outside to get some fresh air if possible.

What not to do:

  • Don't read or watch films on your phone or tablet.
  • Try not to look at moving objects, such as rolling waves.
  • Don't gulp down water - you'll only aggravate your stomach. Take slow sips.

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