For many people, summer means vacation, and vacation means
travel. Travel usually involves some kind of locomotion -- whether by plane,
train, automobile, or boat -- to get from home sweet home to a fun destination.
Therein lies the rub for people with motion sickness.
"Nearly everything that moves will make me ill," says
Andrea Messer, who has suffered from motion sickness since she was an infant.
"Every instance of motion, except when I am in control of whatever is
moving, makes me sick. So if I am the driver, that's fine; if I am rowing the
boat, that's fine. Otherwise ..."
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Though most people aren't afflicted as severely as Messer,
chances are good you've experienced some kind of motion sickness at one point
or another. "All of us could get motion sickness under the right
conditions," Robert M Stern, PhD, tells WebMD.
Stern, distinguished professor of psychology at Penn State
University, has studied motion sickness for the past 15 years. He and
colleagues think motion sickness is caused by a "sensory mismatch."
Normally, a million times a day the vestibular system, the
body's system to help regulate balance and motion, and the vision system send
corresponding signals to the brain, explains Stern. "Anything that disrupts
that normal relationship is what we think leads to motion sickness," he
"In a car, in the typical American family, the father
drives, the mother sits up front, and the kids are in the back," Stern
says. "That poor little kid, all he can see is the back of the front seat.
To the child's visual sense there is no motion involved -- the back of the
front seat is always the same distance from him, but through the vestibular
system in the inner ear, he's getting all the turns in the road, the
The same holds true for reading in the car. "Your eyes are
seeing the page 10 inches in front of you -- that is never changing -- but your
vestibular sense is picking up all of the movements," Stern says.
Interestingly, some ethnic groups seem to suffer from motion
sickness more than others. Stern says that in his research, he found Asians are
much more susceptible to motion sickness than whites or blacks. "That
suggests there are genetic factors at work," he says.
People who suffer from motion sickness don't have to grin and
bear it; there are medicinal and nonmedicinal ways to quell the queasies. But
sometimes it takes trial and error to find the best remedy, says Stern.
"It is important not to travel on an empty stomach,"
says Stern. "Any small, low-fat meal should help. Fat is very bad. Fat,
greasy meals bring about changes in the body that will contribute to the
development of nausea. Take along food for snacks to eat every couple of