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Motion Sickness Bracelets, Pills, & Patches: Which Remedy Actually Cures

Motion sickness can be a real drag for travelers, take it from me. Those clever folks at ShopSmart have put together a list of motion sickness remedies, which will appear in the July issue on stand on May 20. Here they are, straight from the source:

GINGER AND WRISTBANDS: Although far from proven, these are safe and worth a shot, especially for mild symptoms. Ginger root, typically sold in candies and capsules, has the most supporting evidence. Occasional use of up to 250 milligrams four times a day is considered safe for most people, including women who might be pregnant. Bracelets such as Sea-Bands, found at drugstores, stimulate acupressure points on the wrist and have been shown to combat nausea in some situations. The evidence that they work against motion sickness is mixed. However, they’re safe and can be used along with other remedies.

I’ve never tried either of these remedies, though I’ve heard good things. I wonder if it’s possible to eat enough ginger dressing to prevent motion sickness? Mmmm, ginger dressing…

ANTIHISTAMINES: Older over-the-counter antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) have been proven to counteract motion sickness and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by children older than 2. The catch is that they take 30 minutes to an hour to kick in, and they can leave you feeling drowsy or light-headed. Newer, non-sedating over-the-counter antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec p) might relieve allergy symptoms but don’t appear to quell a queasy stomach.

I used to take Dramamine all the time, and it knocked me out every time. I don’t know what’s worse – being sick or being unconscious.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Promethazine (Phenergan) is another antihistamine effective at relieving nausea, but it might make you sleepy. Another choice is prescription strength meclizine (Antivert), although it, too, may cause drowsiness. A scopolamine patch (Transderm-Scop) is also very effective, but side effects including blurred vision and severe drowsiness make it a treatment of last resort. Some patients also report a rebound effect, including nausea, dizziness, and headaches when they remove the patch.

I was prescribed the patch before a cruise this winter, but I didn’t get a chance to pick up the prescription. In retrospect, I’m really glad.

What else can you do?

Eat stomach-soothing foods. Have a light meal about 3 hours before setting out. Avoid dairy products and foods that are high in protein or sodium. A light breakfast of an orange, for example, may stay down better than bacon and eggs. If motion sickness strikes, munch on crackers and take small sips of a carbonated drink or fruit juice. Chew on ginger candies or pop a ginger supplement. Chamomile and peppermint are also used to quell stomach upset.

I found Chamomile tea to work wonders.

Get the best seat. Pick the spot least affected by motion—up front in a car, over a wing on a plane, or midship on a boat deck.

Apparently, lower decks make the best cabins for the queasy. Those below the water line rock less than those above.

Avoid nausea triggers. These include alcohol, cigarette smoke, and pungent odors. The power of suggestion is strong, so if possible, stay far away from other sick passengers.

In my experience, a few beers don’t hurt.

Focus your mind. If you can, lean into your headrest to minimize movement and focus on the horizon or a distant object. Don’t read or watch movies. If you’re queasy, close your eyes and recline until the feeling passes.

Get some air. Crack a window, turn on a vent, or step out on a ship’s deck to get some soothing fresh air.

On my recent cruise to Antarctica, I procrastinated and didn’t pick up my motion sickness patch. My only option was to muscle through the nausea, and guess what? It wasn’t so bad. After about the first day of guzzling Chamomile tea and keeping a full belly (seriously, it helped), I didn’t even notice the motion. Unless you’re really ill, I would recommend passing on the drugs. Take some Ginger and see if your body will adjust on its own.