Travel sickness (motion sickness): Know the reasons

There are sufferers of travel sickness or ‘motion sickness’ in all parts of the world. Travelling by air, sea or road can make them sick. Vomiting, dizziness, nausea, mild headaches are few of the symptoms of motion sickness. They get back all their energy once their journey ends. Our ears, nose and eyes play a major role in causing motion sickness. 



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The motion of a person is sensed by his vestibular system which consists of three tiny canals inside the human ear. When there is a disagreement between the vestibular sense of motion and the visual perception, motion sickness arises. Let’s see how the vestibular system works.



travel sickness 1

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Inside the head, there are three very small liquid-filled tubes near each ear. These tubes are semi-circular canals and contain tiny hairs. When we move, these hairs swing back and forth along with the liquid sending messages to the brain which uses the information to control balance. There are receptors in the brain that can stimulate vomiting. Sometimes too much involuntary motion (like travelling by car or ship or plane) could send messages to a part of the brain called ‘vomiting centre’. Simultaneously, other parts of the brain receive information from the canals. The nerve cells in that part keeps the person alert reacts by making him yawn and feel drowsy. Similarly reactions in other brain centers may cause depression, increased sweating or a cold feeling.


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Sometimes, the eyes and nose can also aggravate the experience. For example, while travelling by air, losing sight of horizon and seeing only moving earth below may be a bad visual experience for some causing discomfort. Sharp turns at the hair-pin bends might scare some people travelling by car. Travelling along circular bends causes more discomfort than travelling along a straight road. Travelers of ship feel sea sick inside the stuffy rooms than in open air. The fumes caused by the fuel used in cars and ships also contribute to motion sickness.



There are few remedies available in the form of drugs. Bending the head back and keeping it still helps to a certain extent in case of travel by cars. Fresh, cool air helps overcome nausea. 


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