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The best remedies for motion sickness

Motion sickness can make travelling’whether by car, boat or plane’an uncomfortable experience. Planning to hit the road? Prepare yourself with these remedies for motion sickness

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family road trip

Coping with motion sickness

When you’re planning some time away, the last thing you want to deal with is the discomfort associated with motion sickness. Yet some 90 percent of adults are affected by it in some way. What are the best over-the-counter preventive remedies for someone prone to motion sickness? We asked Dr. Julie Thomson, a family physician specializing in travel medicine at the Odyssey Travel and Tropical Medicine Clinic in Calgary, as well as Carmen Bell, a pharmacist and drug information consultant with the Saskatchewan Drug Information Service in Saskatoon, and Kathryn Nobrega-Porter, a naturopath in Toronto, for their advice.

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For short trips

Examples: Gravol, Histanil and Life Brand Anti-Nauseant

How they work: Classified as anti-histamines, these medications are to be taken before travelling. They also block the cholinergic transmitters in the brain that control nerve impulses in the gastrointestinal tract and vomiting centre. Dimenhydrinate (the active ingredient in Gravol and Life Brand) offers relief for six to eight hours. Promethazine (the active ingredient in Histanil) may be effective for up to 12 hours, but causes more sedation than dimenhydrinate.

Need to know: Side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth and blurred vision; avoid alcohol and, if you are taking other medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist about interactions. If you are pregnant or ?lactating, these three products are all safe choices, says Thomson. (Gravol is also available in a suppository form. It is your best bet if symptoms have already started, as it acts within 30 minutes.)

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For long trips

Example: Transderm-V scopolamine patch

How it works: Available behind the pharmacy counter without a prescription, the scopolamine patch is applied behind the ear eight to 12 hours before travel. It lasts for three days, making it suitable for cruises, long-haul flights or any long, continuous trip. The patch slowly releases the drug scopolamine, which has anticholinergic properties and treats symptoms by blocking receptors in the central nervous system. You can safely prevent motion sickness with the patch for up to six consecutive days (using two patches, each for 72 hours).

Need to know: Common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness and blurred vision, so don’t drink alcohol or drive while wearing a patch. If you’re taking other medications (especially ones that cause sedation), check with your doctor or pharmacist about interactions. Avoid the patch if you’re elderly or have glaucoma or an enlarged prostate, says Thomson. If you are pregnant or lactating, you can still use the patch, says Bell, but dimenhydrinate and promethazine have been more thoroughly tested for safety.

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ginger root

For a natural remedy

Examples: Nature’s Way Ginger, Flora Ginger capsules and Quest Turmeric-Ginger Complex

How they work: Ginger contains the compounds gingerol and shogaol, which studies suggest have an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting effect. While the medications mentioned in the other two sections of this article work on the brain, these focus on the gastrointestinal tract, says Nobrega-Porter.

Need to know: Although ginger (at two grams per day) is effective for nausea and stomach upset, it won’t relieve sweating or light-headedness, says Thomson. Follow package directions or, 30 minutes prior to travel, take one gram of powdered ginger mixed with water (don’t exceed four grams daily). Side effects are rare, but check with your doctor first if you are pregnant, lactating or taking other medications.

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magnetic bracelets

What about magnetic bracelets?

Products such as the Magna-Pak Bracelet, a magnetic copper bracelet, claim to eliminate motion sickness when positioned against acupuncture points known to reduce nausea. Do they work? “Research doesn’t support their efficacy for motion sickness,” says naturopath Kathryn Nobrega-Porter.

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