To Your Health

Travel is no fun any longer because of motion sickness. With vacation approaching I would like to head off this problem for my whole family. Where do I start?

Q. Travel is no fun any longer because of motion sickness. With vacation approaching I would like to head off this problem for my whole family. Where do I start?

A. A little planning ahead will pay dividends when you travel, especially where children are involved. The most common symptoms of motion sickness are fatigue, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting, but diarrhea happens too. All these can waylay vacation plans. The remedies suggested below are safe for children and adults.

Clinical trials with adults and with children have found that ginger root powder was as effective in treating seasickness as dimenhydrinate (DramamineTM) but with essentially no side effects. Capsules of 500 mg were used, one taken one hour before departure and then 500 mg every two to four hours during the trip as necessary. The study with children used half the adult dose.

Although it is rather daunting to swallow activated charcoal suspended in water, it can prevent nausea. It will also tend to prevent diarrhea from dietary indiscretions at your vacation destination, but since it will absorb essential nutrients as well as offensive substances in your food you should limit its use to 3-4 days.

Preventing jet lag also tends to prevent motion sickness, and this is best accomplished with the hormone melatonin, the natural hormone from the pineal gland that regulates the human biological clock. Jet lag can add daytime sleepiness, disorientation, headache, and sleep difficulties to the symptoms of motion sickness. Since melatonin is ordinarily released for only an hour or so in the middle of the night, taking it at the proper time improves its effectiveness. The formula that seems to work best is, while you are traveling, take melatonin when the time at your destination would be your normal bedtime. For example, if your normal bedtime is 11pm, take melatonin when the time at your destination is 11pm or within an hour or so of that time. The amount can be as little as half a milligram or as much as three milligrams, but the timing seems to be crucial. Take it easy the first day and gradually adjust your eating and sleeping patterns to fit the local time. In many countries melatonin is available only by prescription, so even if you will use it only on the return leg of your trip, take it with you from America.

Diarrhea related to motion sickness or jet lag can often be controlled in a day or two by using beneficial bacteria, acidophilus for adults and bifidobacteria for children under age 6. These friendly bacteria normally live in a healthy gut and inhibit the overgrowth of disease-causing bacteria. Adults can use 2-6 capsules of acidophilus, and children can use 2-3 of bifidobacteria, as often as four times a day to restore normal elimination. An organism related to brewer's yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, is widely available in Europe where it is used more commonly than acidophilus to prevent diarrhea. You will probably find it labeled simply Sb. Remember that diarrhea in infants can become very serious in just a few days' time; do not hesitate to seek medical help for a child who does not quickly respond to simple remedies.

Carob is rich in tannins that have an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the intestinal tract. Carob can of course be used for treating adult diarrhea, but a double blind clinical trial has suggested it may be particularly useful for young children and infants. Some health care professionals recommend one tablespoon of carob powder mixed with applesauce, which would also help the diarrhea and improve the flavor.

Before packing up the family car for a camping trip or a visit to a distant grandparent, just remember there are natural ways to minimize the travel-related illnesses that can spoil a vacation.

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