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 …”
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