Why women, children are more susceptible to vomiting while travelling, physician

Lara Adejoro

A medical doctor at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Dr. Blessing Otiga says women are more susceptible to motion sickness because they produce oestrogen at different stages of their reproductive cycle.

Dr. Otiga, however, said it is not really clear why some children are more prone to motion sickness than others, adding that it may have to do with the sitting position in a moving vehicle.

According to her, oestrogen worsens nausea. 

Otiga said people throw up while travelling due to a disturbance of the inner ear, usually caused by repeated motion from a vehicle. 

“Motion sickness is a disturbance of the inner ear usually caused by repeated motion from a vehicle e.g a car, an airplane, an amusement park ride, or a sea voyage.

“The inner ear helps to control your balance through a system called the vestibular system which consists of three pairs of semicircular canals, two sacs (saccule), and the utricle. 

“The semicircular canal contains fluid, while the saccule and utricle are sensitive to gravity. They send information to the brain about what is going on around you. 

“When the information it sends to the brain differs from that of the eyes, balance is distorted and motion sickness occurs. 

“The symptoms include; nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, drowsiness, drooling, headaches, short breaths, yawning and a general feeling of discomfort,” she said.

On the causes of motion sickness, she noted that when travelling, the brain senses motion through different pathways (sensory systems) i.e the inner ear, eyes, muscles, joints, and tissues of the body surface.

“Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages from these sensory systems. 

“For example, if one is in a car and does not look out of the window, the inner ear senses movement through the vestibular system (up, down, left, right) but the eyes senses a static view, the conflict in sensory input is what causes motion sickness,” she said.

To prevent motion sickness, she advised individuals to always sit in a position where the eyes can see the same motion that the inner ear and other tissues of the body feel. 

“For instance; in a car, sit in the front seat and look at the distant scenery. On a boat, go up on the deck and watch the motion of the horizon. In an airplane, sit by the window and look outside. Also, in a plane, choose a seat over the wings where the motion is minimised.

“Do not read while traveling if u are prone to motion sickness, and do not sit in a seat facing backward. Avoid spicy or greasy foods immediately before and during travel. Do not watch or talk to another traveller who is experiencing motion sickness. 

“Some medications when taken some hours before travelling can also help prevent it,” she noted.

She added that in managing motion sickness, one should look out of the window of a moving vehicle and look towards the direction of travel, which will help to resolve the conflict between the eyes and the inner ear.

“It is also helpful to keep the eyes closed or nap if possible. Fresh air can also slightly relieve symptoms as it reduces any foul odour which might worsen nausea. Chewing gum or just snacking on sweets can also be effective as it also helps to resolve the conflict between vision and balance.”

She said all symptoms of motion sickness usually go away four hours after stopping the motion but some persons still suffer the symptoms a few days after the trip.

“Motion sickness is common with all modes of transportation and all caused by the same mechanism.

“People usually don’t outgrow motion sickness, although it can be less severe in adulthood,” she said.

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