Cruising Toward Solutions for the Other MS — Motion Sickness

Cruising Toward Solutions for the Other MS — Motion Sickness


This summer I will venture out on an Alaskan cruise with my mother and older sister. The beautiful trip through the Inside Passage is on our collective bucket list and we’ve been planning it for a few years. I am looking forward to the ease of travel afforded by a cruise, as well as the beautiful scenery and quality time with my mom and sis. But I’m also nervous about my MS, and I don’t mean multiple sclerosis; I mean the other MS — motion sickness!

I have suffered from motion sickness for as long as I can remember. I was always the child who needed to sit in front, stop for breaks, look out the window, drink some ginger ale, or clutch a plastic bag in a cold sweat. As I got older, I found that the symptoms were reduced significantly if I was the driver. Dramamine worked well if I didn’t need to drive or enjoy the scenery and was content to wake up a few hours later with a kink in my neck and drool on my shirt.

One of the occasional symptoms of my multiple sclerosis is mild, and thankfully transient, vertigo. I sometimes get a more persistent dizziness, but the actual room-spinning vertigo sensations are fairly brief. That said, I could not help but wonder how these two problems might get along on my upcoming cruise. Will MS, vertigo, and motion sickness play well together? I’m afraid they might become inseparable besties.

A cursory internet search did not reveal much research into the issue of motion sickness and MS. However, the MS chat boards had no small number of people in my boat shoes. Many people felt that their motion sickness had worsened since diagnosis. Others reported no worsening of vertigo on board the ship and surprisingly little motion sickness. Symptom management seemed to follow standard recommendations for motion sickness, and also for vertigo.

The National MS Society recommends Dramamine, or asking your provider about a prescription for Antivert (meclizine) for motion sickness. It suggests that these same medications could help MS vertigo, as well as skin patches that deliver scopolamine or the anti-nausea drug Zofran (ondansetron).The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America describes scopolamine as an “anticholinergic agent … that acts on neurons that use acetylcholine as their transmitter. One of its main uses is the treatment of motion sickness and its associated vertigo.” It also states that this medication is likely to have the same side effects as antihistamines (Dramamine and Antivert).

Great. I’m back to napping and drooling in a lounge chair, port side.

Given my none-too-small list of current prescriptions, several of which can cause drowsiness, I decided to “call a friend,” or in this case, email my neurologist. It seems best to consult the expert in the hopes of finding the best solution to manage my multiple sclerosis and motion sickness and enjoy myself at the same time. A patch is appealing because it is one less pill to take and should maintain a steady dose of medication in my system. The scopolamine patch is put behind the ear and stays in place for three days, adding to the convenience.

In addition to a medication, I will follow some general motion sickness tips like the ones in this USA Today article. Thanks to intrepid cruisers who have gone before me and shared “How to Avoid and Treat Seasickness,” I plan to be sporting some anti-MS (motion sickness) bracelets, sipping ginger ale, crunching on a green apple, listening to an audio book (best not to read at first), and admiring the horizon from a lounge chair, mid-deck. If all goes well, I’ll be singing Gilligan-style, “If not for scopolamine, and ginger too, the cookies would be tossed …”

And if it isn’t going well, maybe the captain will let me drive for a little while.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

8 comments

    • Judy Lynn says:

      I read that could be a side effect, and of course some of my other meds cause this also. I will ask about managing this side effect when I see my doctor.
      Did you find anything helpful?

  1. Leslie says:

    Be sure to get at least a window to your room.
    Slide your hand on the wall when you go to your cabin.
    Get a room low on the boat and in the middle of the ship.
    We’ve had rooms in the bow that were nice, but avoid rooms at the stern, they are too noisy with the propeller vibrations.
    Don’t get a room too high, like right under the deck. You don’t need to listen to chairs moving at all times.

    • Judy Lynn says:

      Thank you for all these great suggestions! I especially like the one about sliding my hand along the wall, similar to a vertigo trick I heard about but I would not have thought to do this!

  2. Tracy says:

    How timely! I went on a cruise last month, my first since diagnosed 4 years ago, and tried the Dramamine route. It did not work for me, when it has on prior cruises before Dx. I went to the ships Medic and explained I have MS, revealed my various medications and that I had just received my Tysabri infusion 4 days earlier. While I had followed all the recommendations of being in the middle of the ship, plenty of fresh air, not too high, not too low, Dramamine, etc…It was the Meclizine that saved the cruise! FYI…Medic even said he didn’t understand why people bothered with Dramamine.

    Enjoy your cruise and time with your Mother and Sister!

    • Judy Lynn says:

      Thank you, Tracy! So helpful to hear experiences of others. I think I’ll make sure I have a few days between my interferon and the cruise.

  3. Kim Antonsen says:

    Chewy ginger candies really helped me beat that MS as we rounded Cape Horn this year. They are very strong flavored but surprisingly effective. Best of all, unlike everything else, they didn’t make me sleepy.

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