What to Read Next

Conquer Motion Sickness This Summer

Vera H-C Chan
Senior Editor, Special Projects
August 28, 2014

Summer is the time to indulge your sense of adventure – unless the very thought of sunset cruises and roller coasters make you heave. If so, you’re not alone. 70 percent of people are susceptible to motion sickness, according to one study conducted by NASA. “Motion sickness is a slippery eel because it’s so profoundly subjective,” Thomas Stoffregen, a kinesiology professor at the University of Minnesota, tells Yahoo Health. The set of circumstances that trigger symptoms varies greatly, as do the symptoms themselves, which typically include nausea, pale skin, cold sweats, fatigue, headaches, saliva production, and the dreaded vomiting.

And you don’t even have to move to feel nauseous. Many feel sick while sitting through cinéma vérité-style blockbusters à la “Cloverfield” or “Earth to Echo,” watching moving graphics on a smartphone, or playing virtual games such as Oculus Rift. “The perceived wisdom on this head-mounted display is that it’s going to revolutionize our interaction with the Internet,” says Stoffregen. “The problem with Oculus Rift is that it induces motion sickness in a disturbingly large number of people who use it.”

Surely, with motion sickness such a common ailment, there must be some kind of evolutionary advantage — right? “It’s unknown,” Charles Horn, PhD, who studies the neurobiology of nausea and vomiting at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Medicine, writes in an email to Yahoo Health. However, he points to one possibility, only in the case of nausea resulting from food poisoning. “It seems clear that this gut-to-brain response can help us to learn to avoid consumption of toxic foods in the future and through vomiting expel these offending substances from the gut immediately. In contrast, motion sickness seems to have no adaptive advantage.”

Here are some coping mechanisms:

—While in a car, avoid close-up exercises such as knitting and reading or playing mobile video games. Another trick: Lean your head against the headrest and close your eyes; if you’re listening to music, wear headphones. According to Stoffegren, minimizing outside distractions and creating a “closed zone” helps calm the stomach.

—Do deep-controlled breathing. One classic study found that taking measured, steady breaths relieves nausea in patients recovering from surgery.

—Stay hydrated with clear liquids (no alcohol) such as water, seltzer, or Sprite. For unclear reasons, “Colored liquids have a tendency to come back,” says Stoffegren.

—Taking ginger — whether in pill, cookie or root form — may help. Studies conducted in cancer patients shows it cuts symptoms by 40 percent.

—Focus on the horizon. Stoffegren says zeroing in on a still image in the distance can help block out the bumps and jolts.

If nothing works to quell your nausea, know this: Motion sickness lessons with experience, says Horn. In other words, the more you drive down that bumpy road or fly on a plane, the less you’ll be affected by their dizzying effects. And you don’t have to swear off amusement parks either — just be selective about the rides. For example, a roller coaster has more linear acceleration, whereas the spinning teacups have angular acceleration — and a Ferris wheel can have either, depending on its height. See you at the Lex Luther Drop of Doom.