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Motion Sickness

A study from Pennsylvania State University showed that slow, deep breathing can help control motion sickness. Two major organs control balance: your eyes and your inner ear. Motion sickness occurs when your eyes and your balance apparatus in your inner ear don't agree, causing nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, headache, dizziness, sweating, weakness and inability to concentrate. For example, reading a book tells you that you are still, while being shaken in a boat tells you that you are moving, confusing your brain and making you sick.

Some people can prevent motion sickness by not using their eyes when they are on a boat or plane or by looking at the waves so their eyes agree with their ears telling them that they are moving. This study in Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine shows that controlled slow deep breathing helped to decrease motion sickness symptoms. Sometimes attacks can be prevented by taking 50 mg of over-the-counter Benadryl one hour before getting on a boat or applying a special skin patch containing scopolamine four hours beforehand. Once you suffer a headache, nausea or dizziness, no medication is particularly effective in controlling your symptoms.

MD Jokerst, M Gatto, R Fazio, RM Stern, KL Koch. Slow deep breathing prevents the development of tachygastria and symptoms of motion sickness. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 1999, Vol 70, Iss 12, pp 1189-1192.

Checked 1/14/17

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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