As lockdown eases, travel is at the top of many people’s wish list. But for a significant number, motion sickness (or kinetosis) is a major barrier to getting away, affecting around one in five people in the UK.
Angela Epstein asked Dr Richard Dawood, a GP and travel medicine specialist, to assess motion sickness products, which we then rated.
Scopoderm travel sickness patch
Two patches, £17.99, pharmacyonline.co.uk
Claim: Applied to the skin behind the ear six hours before travel, the maker says these patches, which contain the drug hyoscine, will ‘prevent the symptoms of motion sickness such as nausea, vomiting and vertigo’. Each patch lasts for up to three days.
Expert verdict: Hyoscine belongs to a group of medicines called antiemetics, which prevent the brain receiving signals that cause a feeling of nausea and vomiting due to a confused sense of motion.
These drugs are one of the best options for travel sickness, especially if travelling for several days. The medicine is absorbed through the skin, which makes it longer lasting than a pill, and is also convenient. It’s not suitable for those with conditions such as glaucoma [pressure behind the eye], so read the packaging.
Ridecle anti-motion sickness glasses
Claim: Wrap-around, foldable glasses, these have blue liquid in the rim of the frame that oscillates with your movement to create an ‘artificial’ stable horizon to look at — the maker says these will reduce travel sickness after just ten minutes.
Expert verdict: Creating a stable image to look at is key as motion sickness is caused by a mismatch between motion and sensory signals from the eyes and ears.
This effect is probably most helpful when there is rolling from side-to-side such as on a boat or during flight turbulence, and less useful for car sickness triggered by speeding and slowing, as that doesn’t change the horizon.
MQUPIN Motion Sickness patch
20 patches, £11.99, amazon.co.uk
Claim: Each patch contains herbal ingredients including safflower, obtuse leaf cinnamon bark, and dahurian angelica root. You apply one behind each ear before travel and the maker says they last up to three days and don’t cause drowsiness.
Expert verdict: There is no explanation of how or why the herbs in this patch might work.
Furthermore, it is missing the main herbal ingredient known to help with travel sickness — ginger. The patch may have a distracting or relaxing effect, but there is no empirical proof that it works, which is an issue as it is said to last up to three days.
Stugeron 15 tablets
15 tablets, £3.75, superdrug.com
Claim: These tablets contain cinnarizine, an antihistamine that prevents the vomiting centre of the brain from receiving nerve messages from the inner ear. Adults and children 12 years or older are advised to take two tablets two hours before travel, then one tablet every eight hours during the journey if needed.
Expert verdict: If the head is moving a lot, such as in stop/start travel, this drug should stop signals to the brain that cause nausea, dizziness or vomiting.
This is another effective option, but needs to be taken pre-emptively — travel sickness tablets are not helpful if you are already feeling sick. These pills may also cause drowsiness, which might help if you’re a bad traveller who struggles to sleep — but not if you’re driving.
Take after a meal or with a snack to help with absorption. It may cause a dry mouth, but generally is a good, cheap all-rounder.
Sea Band Nausearelief Ginger Gum
Pack of 24, £14.38, amazon.co.uk
Claim: According to the maker, this is a ‘drug-free’ option with ‘none of the common side-effects associated with anti-nausea medication such as drowsiness, disorientation and dry mouth’. Each pack provides the equivalent of 12g of fresh ginger root.
Expert verdict: Ginger in any form — often as tea — is the most widely trusted herbal option for travel sickness. Many people find it very effective and studies support this.
Convenient to use, chewing gum may release more of the flavour, and you won’t get any of the usual side-effects associated with anti-nausea medication.
Chewing gum also allows a slow release of the ginger, which means the effects will probably last longer [than other forms].
Emeterm motion sickness band
Claim: ‘A safe and effective anti-nausea wristband that prevents and relieves nausea and vomiting induced by motion sickness and morning sickness,’ says the maker.
The band uses electrical stimulation to provide relief using acupressure, a form of alternative medicine that applies pressure to parts of the body to trigger self-healing. Worn as a bracelet, pulses are delivered through the body to the part of the brain controlling nausea via electrode pads.
Expert verdict: The theory is that acupressure prevents or postpones the brain from transmitting nausea signals, reducing the sensation of sickness.
Many people find nausea relief from stimulating the acupressure points on the wrist, and a variety of wristbands are available.
A good option — if it works — for people who want to avoid medication, but it is expensive.
Quease EasE aromatic inhaler
2.25ml, £17.99, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This is a smelling stick containing lavender, ginger, spearmint and peppermint essential oils. You hold it under the nose at the first sign of sickness. The maker says molecules from the oils ‘break the queasiness cycle’. It should be used until nausea subsides.
Expert verdict: The oils have been selected because of their use in alternative medicine for settling sickness (ginger) and for anti-stress properties (lavender — which is also a sedative).
If a nice smell works for you as a way of coping with the unpleasant feeling of sickness, this might be helpful as a distraction.
However, I’m not sure if there is much more to it than this. Inhaled products will work quicker than pills as they don’t have to get into the bloodstream— and if you’re vomiting, taking pills won’t be of any use.
Travel Sickness Wristbands
Pack of two, £1.99, chemist-4-u.com
Travel Sickness Wristbands
Claim: Wear these bands, which use acupressure points to reduce the effects of nausea, for as long as you’re travelling for best results, says the maker. They contain no medication.
Expert verdict: The plastic buttons on the inside of these wristbands apply constant pressure on the ‘Nei Kuan’ pressure points — commonly associated in acupressure with relief of nausea.
There’s no robust science behind it but the feeling of sickness is subjective and the low cost means this is certainly worth a try. It could be just as good as more expensive alternatives if the bands apply enough pressure.
The Divine Hag Anti-nausea Mist
50ml, £18, thedivinehag.com
The Divine Hag Anti-nausea Mist
Claim: An essential oil-based spray which you spritz in the air around you or apply to a tissue to breathe in. This contains a blend of peppermint, grapefruit, sage, lime and ginger which is, says the company, aimed primarily for the relief of ‘travel sickness, morning sickness and hangover’.
Expert verdict: The key ingredient to settle sickness here is again ginger. There is no evidence peppermint, grapefruit, sage and lime will have any effect.
The idea is to create a gentle aroma rather than actually inhaling the product. It may give some relief if you start feeling sick while travelling.
Paws for thought
The health problems we may pass to our pets. This week: MRSA
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA) is a type of bacteria that causes skin and other infections in humans. Resistance to antibiotic drugs can make it hard to treat and if the infection reaches the bloodstream or lungs, it can be very dangerous.
‘When MRSA was identified in pets, the worry was that they might give it to people,’ says Dr Anette Loeffler, from the Royal Veterinary College. ‘But testing showed the MRSA found to infect pets is genetically identical to that causing problems in hospitals, which strongly suggests pets actually get it from humans.
‘It’s not a common occurrence, though, as MRSA rates have dropped. Also, MRSA likes the skin of humans better than that of dogs and cats. If a pet gets it, problems are often limited to mild infection of the skin, ears, eyes or open wounds, and are easily treated as the antibiotic resistance is less problematic in animals as older antibiotics are used’.