10 Tips for Traveling with Emetophobia

The last week of summer is here, and many people will be traveling or returning home either this week or over the Labour Day long weekend. For people with a fear of vomiting, the very idea can be filled with dread. Whether you are traveling by car, plane or boat, emetophobia can rear its ugly head at the idea of yourself or someone else vomiting from motion sickness. I’ve gathered some tips that might be helpful.

  1. Noise-canceling headphones. These are great for any form of travel but particularly helpful on planes where you can close your eyes, listen to something on your headphones and really have no clue what’s going on around you.
  2. Gravol (Canada) or Dramamine (US) is the best medicine for motion sickness and it’s available over-the-counter. It’s not available in the UK, but Kwells or Bonine are similar. Dramamine/Gravol is actually better at preventing nausea and vomiting from motion sickness than Zofran (Ondansetron), so save those if you have them, for when norovirus or “stomach flu” hits your house.
  3. Be prepared for your travel companions to get sick. I accidentally bought a case of emesis bags (vomit bags) and they’re the best thing ever. They’ll fit into your purse or pocket easily, and we keep them in the glove compartment of the car. Planes will have bags in the seat pocket in front of you, but other forms of transportation normally don’t. A carsickness “kit” for kids is a good idea. Ours has the following items: vomit bags, paper towel, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, giant ziplock bags (for garbage or clothing).
  4. Always pack a change of clothes, including socks. No one likes to be thrown up on, least of all people with emetophobia. A change of clothes for kids as well as for you or even your spouse is a good idea. Being prepared helps to calm us down.
  5. Sea-bands, or acupressure bands, may be helpful for you, and they work much better at sea or in cars than on planes. It’s unlikely you’ll get motion sick on a plane as the motion, even during turbulence, is much different and doesn’t affect the inner ear as much. Most people who are sick on planes vomit from anxiety. If you have never vomited from anxiety you never will so don’t worry about that.
  1. In a car, try to drive or ride in the front seat. If you need to sit in back the middle is best so you can look out the front window. Keep your eyes fixed on the horizon if you’re a passenger.
  2. Don’t read or look at your phone or an iPad in the car as it makes motion sickness worse. You should be fine to read or watch a screen on a plane.
  3. If your car isn’t air conditioned, fresh air can help.
  4. Listening to music is thought to help with nausea.
  5. Listen on headphones to relaxation recordings or an interesting book. Keep your eyes closed. This is helpful for nausea, but also anxiety which can cause nausea in the first place.

Do you even HAVE a motion sickness problem? I spoke with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist once about this, and she said that if you didn’t have motion sickness as a child meaning you didn’t vomit in cars as a kid, then you don’t have it as an adult. You are probably so afraid of it that you believe you have motion sickness now and you spend a long time worrying about it and treating it when none of that is necessary. If you have a therapist speak to them about it and perhaps they can outline some gradual exposure exercises for you in the car.

Try to enjoy your holidays and your return trip home!

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4 thoughts on “10 Tips for Traveling with Emetophobia

  1. Felix says:

    When you say if you’ve never been sick from anxiety you never will could you please explain further. I haven’t been sick from anxiety but that’s my main fear.

    • Hi Felix – sorry I didn’t see this comment for a long time. I’m not too swift with all the tech stuff these days. I think it’s pretty simple and self-explanatory so don’t overthink it. You’ve never been sick BECAUSE you were anxious/worried/afraid so you never will be. The only reason you’ll be sick is from poisoning which includes a big viral load of some kind (like norovirus). But “just” anxiety won’t make you sick. ~Anna

  2. Jo says:

    I’ve been trying to find information about this subject for soooo long !
    I’ve had 1 bad experience in a car as an adult (being passenger while hungover) and since then it only got worse, however I didn’t experience car sickness for the first 30 years of my life ! This one time triggered such a bad reaction that now I actually do feel very sick in the car 🙁 how can I help myself

    • The best thing for carsickness is Gravol or Dramamine (in the USA). To help yourself with emetophobia, the best thing is CBT with Exposure and Response Prevention. Take a look at our book!

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