November 17, 2020
Nicola Douglas

Seasickness - the search for a cure

The Rolling, Lurching, Vomit-Inducing Road to a Seasickness Cure

Extracts taken from an article by Egill Bjarnason

"The worst thing about being seasick is knowing you are not going to die."

"Humans have been crossing seas for at least the past 65,000 years, so it seems about time experts from around the world gather to discuss a potential solution to what’s been an intractable predicament. Despite thousands of years of breakthroughs in maritime problems—treating scurvy, for one—the fundamental understanding of seasickness is unchanged, with ancient accidental sailors likely learning the hard truth on their drifting rafts: some people suffer badly, others less so. But everyone can suffer, and solutions are elusive.

About one in three people is considered highly susceptible to motion sickness. These people get seasick from less movement than others, take longer to adapt to movement, and lose their adaptation quicker if the movement isn’t sustained. Who will suffer is nearly impossible to predict, but there are a handful of generalities.

People with a dysfunctional vestibular system are alone among adults in their immunity; they also have a slow vomit response to food poisoning, supporting the toxin explanation for motion sickness. Children younger than six don’t get seasick either. Children’s hyper-susceptibility to motion sickness starts when their brain is mature enough to process and predict motion. So, nine-to-10-year-olds are over four times more likely to get sick than 30-year-olds. Women struggle more than men, particularly during menstruation and pregnancy. Surveys of passengers show a five-to-three female-to-male risk ratio for vomiting. Aerobic fitness also appears to increase the risk of motion sickness, as a fit person’s autonomic nervous system is more sensitive compared with someone who is out of shape. And while seasickness genes have not been found, seasickness is inherited within families and is more prevalent in some populations. Studies suggest that the average European, for example, has more tolerance for motion than the average Asian.

The pharmaceutical industry does not consider motion sickness a priority, and while researchers have tested various formulations on animals, the basic number of drugs to treat motion sickness hasn’t changed much over the past 15 years. But keep watching the research horizon, and you’ll see solutions rising from new technology."

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