What is a Motion Sickness Patch?

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Experiment What Works For You Before Your Trip

Dramamine and Benadryl have helped ease motion sickness for ages; natural remedies like ginger have been around even longer. So what makes patches different?

Why the Patch Seems Like a Great Idea

The scopolamine patch (brand name: Transderm-Scop) is an anticholinergic agent that can be effective in warding off motion sickness. It is applied behind the ear several hours before the nausea-inducing activity and works by blocking transmission of impulses at nerve sites in the gastrointestinal tract and the vomiting center.

For anyone subject to motion sickness who is going on a lengthy journey such as a cruise or a long road-trip, the patch could seem like the answer to a prayer—the difference between a happy excursion and a miserable one. The simple reason is that it lasts longer. While Dramamine relieves nausea for several hours, a patch does the job for up to three days.

Other Considerations

There are, however, several possible side effects associated with the scopolamine patch, including extreme dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, disorientation, light sensitivity and/or blurred vision. Also, some users report nausea, dizziness and headaches after removing the patch.

The scopolamine patch is available in the U.S. by prescription only. If you are considering the patch, make sure to tell your doctor all the medications you take, including supplements, since there are several potentially harmful interactions. Also, let the doctor know if you have glaucoma, liver or kidney problems, stomach ailments, problems with urination, a history of seizures or mental illness, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, if you are breast-feeding or plan to breast feed. Let your doctor know of any other medical conditions, as well. This is, after all, pretty powerful stuff.

Can the Patch Be Used by My Child?

The effects of the scopolamine patch on children have not yet been fully evaluated, and the patch is not recommended for children. If you have questions about the appropriate age at which a person may use the scopolamine patch, confer with a physician.

Is a Motion Sickness Patch Available Over the Counter?

Another type of patch, called the MQ® Motion Sickness Patch, is available over the counter and online. This is an herbal product with advertising claims that it is safe for children over the age of 4. As with many herbal products, the research is not yet in for this one, and again, it is highly recommended that you consult with a physician before use.

What About Alternatives to the Patch for Children?

Over-the-counter antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) have been available for many years. They have proven themselves to be reliable remedies for motion sickness and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by children older than 2. Still, talk to your doctor before your little one gets her first dose. One size doesn't always fit all, especially when your child has a condition that might lead to unexpected side effects. Although many anti-nausea medications cause drowsiness, they can have the opposite effect in some children.

Is There a Verdict on the Patch?

In a word, no; there doesn't seem to be any kind of universal agreement on the use of the scopolamine patch. Some reviewers say it works like a charm, others say the opposite. This range of personal experiences is why it is so very important to have an in-depth talk with your physician first. Consider asking if your doctor thinks it appropriate for an at-home trial first, before making a commitment for your long trip.

Find whatever works best for you and your children, both in terms of anti-nausea effectiveness and your family's health, and you'll be golden.