I think I’ve alluded to it before in a few posts, but if not, here is what you probably didn’t need or want to know for the day: I have horrible motion sickness.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t have motion sickness. When I was younger, traveling with my parents, I constantly dreaded flying and early morning car rides because I knew I would get sick. Also? There is evidence this is genetic (for example, here). Thanks Mom and Dad (…though neither of them have significant issues).
Sure, sometimes it was worse than others, and not having food in my stomach (i.e. mornings) certainly seemed to exacerbate the problem. I’m also one of those people who isn’t really ever hungry in the morning, so that doesn’t help. I’ve been that way since about 5, when my mom says one morning I woke up, and out of the blue told her I wasn’t hungry for breakfast. Twenty-five years later and not much has changed.
When I say “bad”, I’m sure my “bad” doesn’t compare to people with actual medical problems that cause extreme motion sickness, so I don’t want to exaggerate. Yes, on large, commercial planes I am ok probably 70% of the time. But I know I’m not the only one that dreads certain forms of transportation because on a good day, it makes me feel like crap for a few hours, and on a bad day, there will be throwing up. I’m sure the anxiety of getting sick doesn’t help the actual motion sickness, either.
I’ve learned how to cope over the years, more or less. For example, I can be totally fine on a plane, and then a strong whiff of jet fuel sends me over the edge. Some days I wake up and I can just tell my constitution is going to reject any form of motion. I do o.k. in cars, particularly if I can constantly stick my head out the window, if the rear seat is higher than the front (land cruisers…on safari), if I don’t sit in the back. If I can scold the driver to stop “zooming”, that’s a plus too (the people that are always gassing it, braking, gassing it, braking…I’m talking about you)! I’m mostly fine on trains, as long as there isn’t too much braking. Now subways? Ugh. I seriously have to walk off my motion sickness for about an hour after a simple 4 stop trip on the DC metro.
I’ve tried the following: Dramamine (doesn’t work and doesn’t make me drowsy), Bonine (just gets thrown back up), ginger candy (may help, but not if I’m already feeling sick), some homeopathic pill (useless), caffeine (not helpful), and wristbands (can’t hurt…may help in mild cases).
Everyone kept telling me “it will get better as you grow up”. Well, it didn’t. At all. In fact, many times I think it has gotten worse. It’s one thing to be throwing up when you are 10. It’s another thing to be throwing up when you are 30. I was totally fed up, and honestly couldn’t deal with it anymore. I love driving when traveling to see more of the countryside, but I was spending more time with my head against the window (or in my hands) trying to sleep/will myself to not throw up than anything else. Talk about sucking the fun out of travel/life.
As much as it pained me to do so–not a fan of taking medication in general–I spoke to my doctor (I sound like a commercial) and…she prescribed me the Transderm Scop patch. It’s a patch you stick on behind your ear (yes, it is noticeable before you ask–but I just absolutely don’t care), and it’s effective for up to three days. You have to put it on at least 4 hours before motion for it to be effective. There are some side effects, including dizziness, which are common using the patch.
I knew the roads in Bhutan were purported to be quite rough, including bumpy switchbacks up and down mountains, and I was really concerned about having trouble. Moreover, it’s sort of embarrassing to throw up on the side of the road, and I really wanted to enjoy the scenery. It would be horrible to have to say I didn’t see any of the drive because I was sick!
I actually decided to put a patch on the night before we traveled. It definitely made me dizzy, though I also had been sick as well with a 12 hour stomach flu or the like, so I was probably dehydrated and low on sugar anyway. Honestly, the thought process that ran through my mind was something like: dizziness > throwing up, as long as I can still walk and talk and stand without difficulty.
Long story short, it worked. I didn’t feel 100%, but the nausea was mild enough I could still talk, look out the window, and enjoy the trip. Reading still would have been the curse of death…and I tried to turn around to dig something out of my pack–out of the question. But don’t get me wrong, it was a VAST improvement. The roads were quite bad, so it was a good test of efficacy. The dizziness did significantly subside the longer I wore the patches, as I think my body had some time to adjust to the medication.
Ideally, you should probably try before a trip to gauge your reaction. You can also use 1/2 patch to start, though considering I couldn’t read or turn around in the car with one full patch on, I think I needed a full dose.
I continued wearing a patch (changed once) until we left Bhutan, and I took it off when we reached Chiang Mai. I think I said something to DH to the effect of “I’m doing so well, I think I’m fine”.
I’m an idiot.
We had to take a bus the next day to visit the elephants, and I got SO sick within about 8 minutes of boarding the mini bus. I so wish I was kidding. The entire ride all I could think about (with my head on DH’s shoulder and air blowing in my face) was not throwing up in the bus. Then I spent the morning grumpy and nauseous, all from swerving and curving and stopping and starting in Chiang Mai for maybe 20 minutes.
I wasn’t fine, the patch had made me fine. As usual, I was a mess without it.
The moral of this tale? I’ll never, ever travel without the patch again. If you have motion sickness, tried OTC remedies, and it still interferes with your enjoyment of normal activities when you travel, realize you can talk to your doctor. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it made, and how nice it was to be able to focus on learning about where we were and seeing the beautiful country. I pride myself on “sucking it up”, but this is one of those cases where I should have stopped sucking it up a very, very long time ago.
And NO, I haven’t been paid by the drug-maker for this ringing endorsement, and no I’m not a physician so this is not medical advice. I just drew the short-stick when it came to motion sickness, and I’m hoping this helps someone else still dinking around with OTC medication and/or homeopathic treatments.