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Here’s Why You Get Car Sick and What You Can Do to Avoid It

Motion sickness can be an extremely uncomfortable experience when you’re traveling and can ruin an entire trip. But, why does it happen? And is there a way to avoid it?

Bright Side investigated where this dizziness comes from and prepared a bonus with practical advice that can help you stop motion sickness before it starts.

Why do we get dizzy

Car trips are part of the daily lives of many people, so being prone to dizziness can be a real problem. This sensitivity to movement, that results in physical discomfort, is known as motion sickness, a condition that can cause more problems in some people than in others.

Although there is no universal explanation for motion sickness, the most accepted one is the imbalance between sensory perceptions, that is, the difference between what you feel and what you see. This can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, paleness, sweating, gastric discomfort, or belching.

While the vestibular system responsible for regulating the sense of movement and balance informs the central nervous system that something is moving, information from the visual system indicates that you aren’t moving. The brain receives confusing signals and doesn’t quite understand what’s happening.

This also explains why, for many people, watching a movie in a theater can cause the same effect, since what they feel differs from what they see. It happens because the brain seeks to integrate the information it has in a coherent whole, a task that is complicated if it receives opposite information from the senses.

Some are more prone to motion sickness than others.

Virtually anyone can experience motion sickness, but it has been found that migraine patients are particularly susceptible to it. Many symptoms of motion sickness are reminiscent of a migraine attack.

Interestingly, babies under 2 years old rarely suffer from dizziness, since their central nervous system has not yet matured. However, the discomfort is more frequent in children than in adults and the sensitivity to dizziness usually decreases after the age of 12. On the other hand, dogs can also get dizzy during a trip, either from movement or from stress and anxiety.

Reading in a moving car, using a cell phone, or something else that causes your view to stay at a fixed point makes you more susceptible to nausea. On the other hand, the driver of the car doesn’t get dizzy, because they have an active role where the sensory information they receive is coordinated.

How to fight it

The symptoms of motion sickness may appear suddenly and usually decrease when the car (or whatever the person is traveling in) stops. If you are prone to motion sickness, here are some tips to help you avoid this discomfort:

  • If you have to ride as a passenger, try sitting in the front seat or next to a window.
  • Keep your eyes fixed on the horizon.
  • Avoid smoking or being near smokers.
  • Don’t move your head very much. If you start to get dizzy, rest it on the headrest.
  • Don’t eat heavy foods. Something light, like cookies and drinking small sips of water, is better.
  • Avoid strong odors like alcohol.
  • Try to consume products containing ginger (like cookies) to relieve nausea.
  • Take an antihistamine at least 30 minutes before traveling, but take under consideration that it may cause drowsiness. Check with your doctor before self-medicating.

Have you ever had a bad experience where motion sickness turned a trip into hell? Tell us in the comments.