Dr. Dad: Motion Sickness
Family trips to the Boundary Waters are always an adventure. There are, however, several variables, in my opinion, which help to determine if that adventure falls on the “love it” or “launch it” side of the family trip ledger. These variables include weather, trip logistics, food, insects, equipment and intangibles like fishing success, wildlife sightings and travel companions.
For our family trip this summer, temps in the low 80s, blue skies and light winds brightened everyone’s outlook and made for some great swimming. With only one short portage from the car to the lake/campsite and tasty menu selections including a cherry pie baked in the camp oven, this trip was satisfying physically and gastronomically. The absence of incessantly biting mosquitoes and black flies, which are usually a fixture on summer trips to the BWCA, was truly a gift from the gods… or maybe it was just my new insect repellent clothing, a gift from my wife and kids.
Enjoying an incredibly comfortable double-sized sleeping bag and pad with Jane, catching a rainbow trout of a lifetime, seeing a cow moose and her calf and sharing the trip with our friends the Kirby-Whitworth family was enough to push this trip well beyond the “love it” category.
Basking in the glow of this perfect family trip, I found myself suddenly jerked back into reality as our car snaked its way down the curvy and hilly Gunflint Trail a few miles outside of Grand Marais. Jack, age 9, was yelling and crying at the same time. “I feel sick. I’m going to barf. Stop the car!”
Knowing that I did not want to spend the next two hours driving with the windows down, air conditioning blasting and mouth breathing so as to avoid the rancid odor of vomit in the back seat, I pulled over as quickly as possible. Jack bolted out of the car and immediately assumed the hurling position. After 10 minutes of intense salivation, the nausea of his motion sickness passed and Jack was able to resume traveling.
Motion sickness is incredibly common in kids and adults alike. Symptoms include pallor, sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Motion sickness results from an overload of conflicting input from the body’s three primary sources of information regarding our sense of balance and equilibrium: our eyes, our vestibular system (inner ear) and our propioceptive system (musculoskeletal system and skin). Travel on boats, automobiles, trains, airplanes and amusement park rides can precipitate this unpleasant, but temporary condition.
Treatment includes behavioral techniques such as looking at the stationary horizon, keeping your head still and stopping travel. Antihistamines such as Dramamine can reduce symptoms but must be taken before the motion begins. Scopolamine, a medicated patch worn behind the ear for 72 hours, can also help but must be applied several hours before the trip.
Thankfully, once Jack stopped his game of Angry Birds on his iPod, and we exited the Gunflint Trail, he felt fine. This was just in time for our favorite post BWCA family tradition: ice cream at the DQ in Grand Marais. Til next time.