OTC meds may help over­come sea­sick­ness

The Times-Tribune - - Health & Science - ASK THE DOC­TORS is writ­ten by Robert Ash­ley, M.D., Eve Glazier, M.D., and El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D. Send ques­tions to ask­the­do­c­tors@med­net.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doc­tors, c/o Me­dia Relations, UCLA Health, 924 West­wood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 9009

Q: I'm go­ing sail­ing with friends soon. Since I tend to get mo­tion sick­ness in cars and air­planes, I’m wor­ried that means I’ll get sea­sick as well. Are there any nat­u­ral reme­dies?

A: If it helps at all, you’re far from alone. A large por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion suf­fers some de­gree of mo­tion sick­ness dur­ing travel. The most com­mon ef­fects — dizzi­ness, nausea, even vom­it­ing — are sure to ruin your day. For some peo­ple, ad­di­tional symp­toms like cold sweats, a throb­bing headache or a bout of anx­i­ety only deepen the mis­ery.

The cul­prit in mo­tion sick­ness is be­lieved to be (sci­en­tists still aren’t sure) the dis­con­nect be­tween what your eyes see and what the sen­si­tive mech­a­nism in your in­ner ear, which con­trols bal­ance, feels.

When you walk or run or twist or bend down, those struc­tures in your in­ner ear, known as the vestibu­lar sys­tem, are in sync with what your eyes are telling you. You are mov­ing, but the ground you stand on is not.

On a boat, how­ever, your eyes and your in­ner ear are send­ing se­ri­ously mixed mes­sages to your brain. Your eyes know you are sit­ting still, but ac­cord­ing to your vestibu­lar sys­tem, you’re in mo­tion. For rea­sons that are still un­clear, it is this sen­sory dis­con­nect that lights up path­ways in the brain, caus­ing the symp­toms of mo­tion sick­ness. And all you want is relief.

Some suf­fer­ers rely on an­ti­his­tamines such as Dra­mamine, an over-the­counter med­i­ca­tion, which can con­trol nausea and vom­it­ing. Pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the Trans­derm Scop patch and promet­hazine, can also help with the symp­toms of sea­sick­ness. But these med­i­ca­tions can have side ef­fects such as dry mouth or drowsi­ness.

Since you want to go the nat­u­ral route, let’s take a look at your op­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, sim­ple be­hav­iors can give you a leg up. Stay hy­drated, skip the beer and cock­tails, don’t drink any caf­feine and limit eat­ing to small meals. If pos­si­ble, gaze out at a fixed point on the hori­zon. This lets your brain con­firm the in­put that it’s get­ting from your eyes and your in­ner ear — yep, you’re def­i­nitely in mo­tion.

As for nat­u­ral reme­dies, a lot of trav­el­ers swear by ginger, which has been shown to ease nausea as­so­ci­ated with mo­tion sick­ness. You can find ginger in pow­dered form in many nat­u­ral food stores and phar­ma­cies. Dra­mamine also of­fers what it says is a clin­i­cally tested full dose of pow­dered ginger, pack­aged in a sin­gle cap­sule. Candied ginger and ginger tea are also op­tions.

Al­though there is con­flict­ing ev­i­dence over its ef­fec­tive­ness, acu­pres­sure has its pro­po­nents. In this method, con­stant pres­sure is ap­plied to the in­sides of the wrists via spe­cial elas­tic wrist­bands.

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