Jet Lag and Motion Sickness

Jet Lag

Your body is regulated by light/dark cycles that trigger the rhythmic release of hormones throughout the day. When you cross multiple time zones, you are exposed to light and darkness at uncommon times. As a result, your natural hormonal rhythms may be drastically disrupted, creating symptoms such as daytime fatigue, reduced mental and physical performance, irritability, or general malaise.

Fortunately, jet lag is typically reserved for individuals who have crossed multiple time zones. For practical purposes, travel from North America to the Baja California does not place you at much risk unless you are coming from the East Coast, Hawaii, or Europe. There is not much that can be done to reduce the symptoms of jet lag and often only time relieves them. Some recommendations include:

Get a lot of sleep and rest in the days before you travel.

Adapt as quickly as possible to the new time zone by waking and sleeping as others do I that time zone.

Nap and rest between activities during the first few days after your arrival.

If you are traveling west (and your day is increased), avoid prolonged periods of sleep. Try to take small naps instead.

If you are taking a night flight, try to get good sleep on the plane.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is generally a genetic predisposition that affects people to varying degrees. If you become ill in the back seat of a moving vehicle, on a bumpy plane ride, or on the ocean, there are some maneuvers and medications that may lessen your symptoms. Sometimes, avoiding these situations is the best approach.

Motion sickness rarely affects children before age two, and tends to peak about the age of 12, becoming less noticeable over the years. Symptoms may include nausea, abdominal discomfort, dizziness or unsteadiness, drowsiness, cold sweats, and in -severe cases- even vomiting and dehydration. Factors that may increase your risk include fatigue, alcohol, certain drugs, anxiety, and exposure to foul smells.

If you are on a large aircraft, try to choose a seat over the center wing. The same goes for traveling by boat: try to position yourself in the center of the craft where there is less to-and-fro movement. Focus your vision on the horizon. In smaller boats it seems to make no difference where you are located. If you are in a car, try to sit in the front seat with the window open, focusing your gaze on the horizon.

Some medications have been found to be helpful, including Transderm Scop (scopolamine) Patches, Scopace tablets (scopolamine), Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), and Stutgeron (cinnarizine). While all of these will help, they do have inherent side effects common to their drug class, such as blurred vision, drowsiness, dry mouth, and dizziness. These medications are not recommended for use in children. Instead, you may safely use Benadryl (diphendydramine) for your child. Ginger or ginger root can help calm a queasy stomach.

Robert H. Page, MD and Curtis P. Page, MD are authors of the MEXICO: Health and Safety Travel Guide and the Healthy Traveler Regional Series.