Dear Doctor: What can you recommend for motion sickness? We’ve been taking the family driving a lot lately to get us out of the house, but unless I’m the one behind the wheel, the mountain roads where we live make me nauseated.
Dear Reader: There’s nothing like a bout of motion sickness to ruin an otherwise fun day. The symptoms can range from the queasy stomach that you describe to dizziness, a throbbing headache, cold sweats, anxiety and vomiting. It’s a common affliction, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the other passengers in your car aren’t suffering a bit as well.
Although the exact cause of motion sickness remains unclear, it appears to be linked to a miscommunication between what our eyes are telling us and what is being reported by the delicate structures of the inner ear. Known as the vestibular system, this is the mechanism that controls balance. When you turn your head, bend down or twist around, the resulting image you’re seeing is in sync with what your inner ear says is happening. Your physical body is in motion, but the ground is stationary. In a car on a twisty road, however, the signals get mixed. Your eyes say your body is sitting still, but to your inner ear, your body is in motion. It’s not clear how or why, but this sensory dissonance stimulates pathways in the brain that lead to the often gut-churning symptoms of motion sickness. For whatever reason, the brain has decided the body is best off purging itself, and either nausea or vomiting can be the outcomes.