Dear Dr. Roach: When I was a child, carnival rides made me very sick. Throughout my adult life, car, bus, boat and air travel often have caused me motion sickness. This doesn't happen when I drive. Drugs such as Dramamine and meclizine do not help.
Can modern medical science explain why some people can endure tremendous forces of movement while others, like me, become ill with little motion?
Dear G.R.: The inner ear, the eyes and position sensors scattered throughout the body tell the brain where we are and what our location is relative to our surroundings. When the input from the eyes, inner ear and position sensors present the brain with conflicting information, we come down with motion sickness. It can be induced in nearly everyone. Some, like you, however, are more sensitive to the garbled information than others. Infants younger than 2 don't suffer from motion sickness. The driver of a car is almost always immune to it. This might be because the driver fixates on objects on the road ahead.
Repeated exposures to situations that induce this reaction are said to lessen its intensity. On water, fix your gaze on the distant horizon, preferably on a stationary object, like land, if such an object is in view. If one isn't, keep the eyes trained on the far sky. Lying down on your back minimizes symptoms.
In a car, always sit in the front seat, and keep your gaze far ahead. Sitting in the back provokes motion sickness, and reading while riding all but guarantees it.
When do you take your Dramamine and meclizine? Motion sickness medicines have to be taken hours before you start a trip. The scopolamine patch Transderm-Scop is quite effective. It, too, has to be put on the skin behind the ear four hours before starting a trip. Ginger calms many people's motion sickness.
Dear Dr. Roach: I have heard that diabetes definitely can affect a person's personality. Will you explain and elaborate on this concept?
Dear M.K.: I'm not so sure I can, and I'm not so sure I agree with it. I know many, many people who have diabetes and whose personality hasn't changed. Chronic illnesses can affect the way people look at life and react to life's problems and joys. I can't, however, describe any particular personality changes that happen to people with diabetes.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.