Car sickness driving you crazy? Here are some surefire cures to help you ride the curves

Be it in the city or the countryside, easy rides can become queasy rides if you have a sensitive system. But don’t worry, you can start to enjoy your drives with our simple, tried-and-tested remedies…

Road trips are getting increasingly popular these days. While for most, all this means is packing a few essentials, doing all the checks for drive safety, and hopping into your vehicle with great anticipation, for some (including yours truly), it’s also laced with great anxiety. That’s because we are affected with a malady called car sickness, which, at best, makes you feel dizzy and nauseated, and at worst, can lead to some rather dramatic upheavals!

Uneasy on the road? There could be a way to dodge this! Carsickness, road trip, india travel
Uneasy on the road? There could be a way to dodge this! Image: Shutterstock/Nicoleta Ionescu.

After years of popping pills that not only put me to sleep for the duration of the drive, but often for days after, I decided to get to the bottom of this annoying affliction. After all, what’s a travel journalist who can’t really enjoy the journey, rather than just the destination!

Apparently, car sickness (a kind of motion sickness) is a result of the balance in the inner ear being upset. This happens because there’s a dissonance between the way our eyes see the world, the way we sense the vehicle moving, and the fact that the mechanisms inside our ears work to find balance between these two. The common symptoms that most people face include, dizziness, anxiety, chills, headache, increased saliva, rising of bile, nausea, and vomiting. I’ve found that the extent to which you suffer depends on several factors.

The most common reason for car sickness is bad driving. If you’re being driven by someone else, make sure you let them know upfront that there’s a strong chance of upchuck if they drive rashly. Zigzagging, braking suddenly, zipping to overtake other vehicles, all of this start-stop action can play havoc with your insides. The best drivers for you are those who can manage a smooth drive, taking curves at a wider angle, and indulging in anticipatory braking.  

In my experience, you feel it least when you’re driving yourself. It also helps to sit upfront with the driver of the vehicle or diagonally opposite in the back seat. Certain vehicles work better for different individuals. For some, rattly cars with bad shock absorbers actually make the ride more comfortable! For others, SUVs and vans work better to quell the car sickness, thanks to a higher wheelbase.

I’ve had all manner of ‘cures’ thrust on me over the years. One monumentally horrendous Mumbai to Goa overnight bus journey with the bestie saw the two of us green at the gills throughout, the manic driver refusing to stop en route, some rather alarmed gentlemen giving us black garbage bags to contain the spew and more mints than we could possibly carry. We were so zoned out with this nightmare ride by the time we reached Goa, people at our hotel probably thought we had been at an all-night rave! Nevertheless, there may be merit in the popular mints, candies, or chewing gum cure for you, even if it proved rather ineffective for us.

You can also try sucking on ajwain, ginger in many forms, crystallised candies, in tea, or ginger ale, and eating digestive biscuits, which has been useful in keeping car sickness at bay for others. There are products that have been created to help reduce the sickness — acupressure bands to wear around the wrist, aromatherapy drops to rub on your temples, wrists, handkerchief, etc.

Music to the rescue! Car sickness, road trip, india travel
Music to the rescue! Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions.

Suggested read: Seven top tips to chart out the perfect travel itinerary

Here are some tips to make your future journeys a joy…

  • Look out of the window only in the same direction that you’re travelling in. Gaze into the distance rather than at objects close to your vehicle.
  • Many people advice travelling on an empty stomach to mitigate the risk of car sickness, but this, is in fact, the worst thing to do. It’s best to line your tummy with a light, non-greasy, non-spicy meal eaten about 45 minutes before departure. And don’t do what I did on my last Himachal Pradesh road-trip… rhododendron wine tastes great going down, but you certainly don’t want it to pay you a return visit on those hairpin curves!
  • Don’t be on your smartphone or tablet, be it for conversations, video calls, reading, scrolling through posts, catching up on Netflix, etc. Don’t read a book or newspaper either. Wait until you’re on stable ground for all of these.
  • Keeping the inside-car chatter to a minimum will help you, although your co-travellers may not be very happy if you shush them, especially if they’re counting on playing antakshari!
  • Temperature and air flow play a big role too. A simple thing like requesting for the AC vents to be turned in your direction, increasing the cooling, or even opening up the windows to let the fresh air blow can all be helpful, depending, of course, on how the outside weather is and whether your co-travellers are concerned and cooperative. I usually avoid sitting in the direct sunlight as that aggravates the situation.
  • Make sure that the smells and fragrances around you won’t add to the nausea. Certain perfumes and aur fresheners can be the culprits. Spray a scent that you know is calming for you, like delicate lavender or warm vanilla, and cover your nose and mouth with it in case the other smells bother you.
  • Plenty of breaks are a good idea. Everyone gets to stretch their legs and visit the washroom and you get a chance to do a bit of deep breathing and feel a bit more settled before the next leg of the drive.
  • This one is my all-time go-to for car sickness — pop in the ear buds, the more bass the better, and listen to music with a thumping beat. Avoid ballads and songs that are high on treble (so no Lata Mangeshkar and Celine Dion). I keep a long-playing playlist downloaded and ready before the drive, so I don’t have to rely on an iffy data connection or look at my device to choose the next track. This music therapy has helped me immensely on all my travel across India and the rest of the world. Hoping it gives you similar relief too.

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