In this seasonal travel period I thought I would share with you the ins and outs (quite literally in my case) of motion or travel sickness.
The trad view of motion sickness is that it occurs where the brain receives conflicting messages from the visual and vesitbular (balance) centres, however, proprioceptive stimuli (from muscles, the skin etc) also play a role. For instance, your body detects that you are moving through space via your inner ear balance centres or through skin and muscle stimuli. However, your eyes deny this as you are quite happy staring at your book or whatever in-flight film BA have deemed is fun and family viewing this summer (and I hope for your sake it’s not rush hour 2 as it was on my last long haul flight). Thus, there is a conflict of sensations. This brings on nausea, sweating and when severe, vomiting. Why the body should be designed or even evolve this response which occurs in at least 50% of the population and 100% of sea passengers on a really rough voyage, I cannot fathom.

Some interesting facts worth noting are that the degree of sickness is directly related to the degree of heave (wonderfully appropriate). Heave is the up-down motion, joyfully experienced by children going over a hump-backed bridge. Incidentally, this complex system of feedback and mismatched sensations does not afflict toddlers, only kicking in when children are around 4 years, whereupon it peaks and settles down to a nominal rate. Unfortunately this inevitably ties into the time when most kids are eating solids and can quite happily empty their stomach contents all over their immediate surroundings without any of the later angst or embarrassment associated with early adulthood.

Apparently a ‘heave’ every 5 seconds or so will have even the most seasoned traveller reaching for the paper bag. More annoying is that actual, real heave is not necessary to produce symptoms, mere visual simulation of rapid movement is enough. In some cases pure visual simulation of movement conflicting with a balance message of definitely-sitting-still-in-this-chair will more effectively produce motion sickness than actual movement. Another interesting thing is that if the heave is faster, a quick up and down, it doesn’t have the same effect and this is apparently why you can get sea-sick on a camel but not on a horse. I could have strayed here into other up-down territory but stayed mercifully on track.

My own personal experience of this delightful evolutionary quirk is quite varied, from the obvious; boats, cars, planes to the less obvious; gym treadmill, microfiche reader, Blair Witch film at cinema. So I am up for learning about prevention. Of which there is little – look at the horizon. However, working from what I have now learnt surely the following would be worth a try; leaping up and down or at least throwing the head from side to side whilst playing computer games, flicking through microscope slides, or watching panoramic movies.

Or of course you could buy one of those over the counter remedies at a chemist that apparently work quite well.

I remember once being told that looking at anything green helps. This did indeed work vaguely for my friend in the back of a black cab. She was so confused by my demand to name and visualise apples that it prevented her from being sick until we reached the safety of her front door. One to bear in mind perhaps.