Do you feel sick on long car journeys? According to the RAC car sickness (or motion sickness) affects 1 in 5 people in the UK, causing them to feel uncomfortable and physically ill on long car journeys.
While there’s no cure for motion sickness, there are ways to treat it. From chewing on certain foods to changing your seating position, read on to discover 10 ways you can deal with car sickness on your next road trip.
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Feeling carsick? Try these 10 strategies to relieve your symptoms and feel better.
What is car sickness and what causes it?
Car sickness is a specific form of motion sickness that affects people on long road journeys. It’s caused by repetitive movements, such as accelerating, decelerating, and turning around a corner at speed, which can disturb the inner ear. In addition to helping you hear sounds, the inner ear helps you to maintain balance. When it’s disturbed, your sense of balance declines and the symptoms of motion sickness, which can range from light nausea to vomiting, start to appear.
In addition to helping you hear sound, the inner ear helps you balance. When it’s disturbed, your sense of balance declines and the symptoms of motion sickness, which can range from light nausea to vomiting, start to appear.
About one in three people suffer from car sickness to varying degrees. Sometimes, the symptoms of car sickness are simply light vertigo, (symptoms include nausea, loss of balance, and vomiting), and discomfort. More severe cases of motion sickness can include vomiting, headaches, sweating and shortness of breath.
10 ways to deal with your car sickness
Do you feel uncomfortable on long car journeys or winding roads? Tom Stoffregen, a Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Kinesiology, offers 10 simple but effective ways to deal with car sickness.
1. Sit in the front seat
Because the front wheels of a car are responsible for its direction, sitting in the front seat of a car tends to reduce motion sickness. This is because you feel less force from a sharp turn than you would at the back, which is further from the turning wheels.
Think of the car’s chassis like a centrifuge. When you’re directly on top of the source of movement, it’s barely noticeable. The further you get away from it (for example, a rear seat on a large bus) the more noticeable and powerful the force becomes.
2. Close your eyes and sleep
There’s more to car sickness than just a disturbance of your inner ear. When you’re exposed to rapid motion, your body can start to become nauseous and ill due to the rapid change in your surroundings.
If you’re in a vehicle travelling at high speeds (for example, on the motorway) and feel sick, close your eyes and try to sleep. With your eyes closed, the effect of the motion on your body won’t be so dramatic or uncomfortable.
3. Look into the distance
Instead of focusing on the scenery you’re passing, choose a point in the distance and focus on it. Mountains, river and tall buildings far ahead of your car are great points to focus on in order to reduce your car sickness.
When you focus on a single point in the distance, your eyes and brain no longer need to process the moving scenery around you. As you approach your focal point, search the horizon for another one and keep looking at it while you travel.
4. Don’t read anything
From novels to magazines, smartphones to e-readers, any device that displays small text is a no-no for people prone to car sickness. Small type is difficult to focus on in a moving vehicle due to the small bumps your car is constantly travelling over.
When you read in a car, your visual field stays still but your inner ear detects the twists and turns. Reading can make your car sickness even worse and leave you feeling uncomfortable and nauseous. Each bump in the road causes your book or electronic device to move up and down, forcing your eyes to readjust.
5. Use your headrest
Are you sitting too far forward in your seat? Sit back and plant your body into your seat for better support. If you tilt your neck and head slightly forward, bring both of them back to sink into your headrest.
Being supported by your seat reduces the amount of movement that your body, and in particular your head, is subject to. Keep yourself firmly planted in your seat for a more comfortable journey and fewer motion sickness symptoms.
6. Listen to music
Listening to music is a great way to take your mind off car sickness and start to feel more comfortable when you travel. If you have an mp3 player or smartphone, pull up your favourite playlist and listen to an album or audiobook while you travel.
Stick to devices with headphones and try to avoid using the car radio. This is a great way to treat car sickness because in-ear headphones deliver balanced stereo sound, which could help you regain your sense of balance.
7. Keep yourself hydrated
Do you get headaches when you travel? Many of the symptoms of car sickness can be made worse by dehydration. Drink plenty of water before you travel and make sure you’re never dehydrated while on the road.
While it’s a good idea to drink plenty of water before and during car journeys, it’s best to avoid any coloured liquids. Soft drinks, caffeine, milk-based drinks and alcohol can make car sickness worse and should be avoided whenever you travel.
8. Eat light before you travel
Feeling hungry? There’s nothing worse than feeling hungry on a long journey but eating a large meal before you go on a road trip could make your car sickness worse than it would normally be.
Before you travel, snack on light, bland foods that you know won’t leave you with an upset stomach. Simple carbohydrates such as white rice, light bread and cereals are all unlikely to upset your digestive system on a long car journey.
9. Take over as driver
Did you know that driving is a great way to treat car sickness? When you control the vehicle, every twist and turn in the road becomes predictable, lessening the impact a sharp turn or steep hill has on your body.
If you’re on a road trip and start to feel car sick, ask to stop for a short break before taking over as driver. Drive smoothly and your motion sickness could disappear in very little time.
10. Chew gum or ginger biscuits
Chewing gum has an interesting ability to reduce the effects of motion sickness. This may be due to the motion of your jaw, which has an effect on your inner ear’s ability to keep you balanced.
Don’t like gum? Ginger is a great food for treating motion sickness, as well as a key ingredient in many tasty foods. The next time you feel uncomfortable in the car, try chewing on a ginger biscuit to regain your balance and calm your nerves.
If gum or ginger isn’t working for you – there are a couple of medicines that the NHS recommends for car sickness.
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