Managing Motion Sickness

There are several ways to cope with motion sickness.

Question: I’m been driving for over 15 years since I was 21, but each time I am a passenger in someone else’s car, I get motion sickness. What causes this nauseous feeling? Why do I only get it when I don’t drive? What can I do to prevent this?

Answer: Motion sickness symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may occur when there is a conflict between your eyes and inner ears. A mismatch of information between the eyes and vestibular system will confuse the brain and result in motion sickness. The vestibular system is a network of nerves, channels and fluids in your inner ear, which helps control balance.

As a driver, your brain anticipates and reconciles what you see and feel through your movement of the steering wheel. Although it is generally agreed that controlling a moving vehicle greatly reduces the likelihood of motion sickness, few studies have addressed this issue directly, and the theoretical explanation for this phenomenon is not completely clear.

What To Do When You Have Motion Sickness

Mild symptoms of motion sickness can usually be improved by the following techniques:

  • Keep still: If possible, choose a seat in the middle of the moving vehicle because this is where you will experience the least movement. Use a pillow or headrest to help keep your head as still as possible.
  • Look at a stable object: For example, the horizon. Reading or playing games may worsen your symptoms.
  • Close your eyes: Getting some shut-eye may help to relieve the symptoms.
  • Unwind the windows: Get a good supply of fresh air if you feel stuffy.
  • Relax: Listen to music while you focus on your breathing or carry out a mental activity such as counting backwards from 100.
  • Stay calm: You are more likely to get motion sickness if you worry during your journey.

You should also avoid eating a large meal or drinking alcohol before travelling. Keep hydrated throughout the journey by drinking water. If you are prescribed with motion sickness medication, take them before you start the journey.

Dr Lee Mun Tuck
Family Physician
Associate Consultant
Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic
National Healthcare Group Polyclinics

Mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder can be managed by medication and therapies.

Breaking Down Anxiety Disorder

Question: These days, even the most ordinary situation, like an overflowing inbox, makes me anxious. My breathing gets short, my palms get sweaty, and I just want to escape from the office. How can I control this? Is there a cure for my anxiety? I am in my mid-40s.

Answer: Having some anxiety symptoms occasionally is a natural response to the stressors we commonly face in life and actually serves to warn and protect us from danger. It is only when anxiety symptoms are severe, long-standing and interfere with our daily functioning that it becomes a ‘disorder’. This then would require treatment.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The most common example of such a disorder is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), in which one becomes easily worried about many things throughout the day for a period of more than six months. As a result, the person cannot function in his or her work/studies.

Panic Disorder

Another example is panic disorder, in which there are frequent recurring “anxiety attacks” (short episodes of severe anxiety symptoms, including palpitations and shortness of breath), as well as anticipatory fears of subsequent ‘attacks’. While these symptoms are not life-threatening, they may affect the person’s daily activities or cause him to turn reclusive.

In your case, try making some changes to your lifestyle. Ensure that you have sufficient sleep and adequate exercise. Certain foods and beverages such as caffeinated beverages can cause anxiety-like symptoms such as tremors and palpitations, so avoid or consume these in moderation.

If you are still worried, visit a doctor for an assessment. A person diagnosed with anxiety disorder can be helped with both medication and psychological therapies.

Dr Mok Yee Ming
Senior Consultant and Chief
Department of General Psychiatry
Head, Mood Disorders Unit
Institute of Mental Health

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