Poor old Chris Evans. The new front man for the BBC’s smash hit Top Gear television show not only has the unenviable task of taking over the most viewed factual TV programme in the world, but is allegedly finding that he suffers from terrible travel sickness.
Motion, or car sickness to the many who are blighted by it every time they get in a car, is estimated to affect around 20 million people in Britain. As Chris Evans is reported to have found, after riding along side a professional racer in a high performance Audi R8 sports car during filming for the new series of Top Gear, it often strikes when you’re a passenger in a car. But why are so many of us blighted by it? And how can we prevent ourselves becoming, well, queasy riders?
What causes car sickness?
NHS advice says that car sickness occurs when there’s a conflict between what our eyes see and what the inner ears, which help us balance, sense. If the eyes tell the brain that you’re moving, but the inner ear suggests you’re sitting still, symptoms of car sickness will occur.
The brain is informed about our environment and how we’re moving by the eyes and the vestibular system. The latter is described as a network of nerves, channels and fluids in the inner ear which relay a sense of motion and balance to the brain. If there’s a mismatch between what the eyes are telling the brain, and information coming from the vestibular system, we end up feeling nauseous.
What are the symptoms?
Anyone who’s ever suffered car or travel sickness will recognise the symptoms. People typically feel a cold sweat, and the colour will drain from their face. There’s dizziness, rapid, shallow breathing, an increase in saliva and, ultimately, vomiting. In other words, you feel rotten.
How can you prevent car sickness?
If there was a simple solution that worked for everyone, you wouldn’t be reading about car sickness. However, there are preventative measures that can be taken, which often help sufferers, according to Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, a former GP and author of The Essential Guide to Travel Health. Here are some tips from her, and the NHS:
- Don’t eat a heavy meal
- Relax and stay calm: worrying about the journey is likely to bring on symptoms
- Try wearing an acupressure band to see if it works for you
- Consider taking an antihistamine travel sickness pill, ideally well before getting in the car. Always consult a chemist for advice
In the car:
- Don’t read
- Look at the horizon
- Open the window and get some fresh air
- Have a biscuit! Ginger biscuits can help fight nausea
- Keep travel sickness bags to hand
Helping children who suffer from car sickness
Personal experience tells me that car sickness is common among children. Two of my three children suffer from it, one acutely, the other only when a road coils its way around a hillside like a snake up a tree.
We’ve tried wrist bands and homeopathic motion sickness tablets, but the most successful remedy has been much more straightforward: allow the acute sufferer to sit in the front passenger seat.
This gives them a clear view of the horizon, which is said to be one of the best ways to help your eyes and vestibular system send the right messages to the brain. This is only advisable when using the correct child car seat, but it has never let us down. And even if it does mean she has control of the in-car music, it’s a small price to pay for preventing car sickness.