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Overcoming motion sickness and treating brittle nails


Dr Nina Byrnes

Dr Nina Byrnes

Dr Nina Byrnes

We are planning on travelling by boat to France this summer on holidays. My daughter gets very car sick. Is there anything I can do to prevent her feeling travel sick on the boat?

Motion or travel sickness is very common and thought to affect about 33pc of people even with mild motion whereas about 66pc are thought to be affected by severe motion. It occurs due to a disturbance in the inner ear due to repeated unusual motion of the body. Motion sickness can occur in many places including cars, boats, trains, planes and fairground rides. Children and women are most commonly affected - the reason for this is unclear.

Motion is sensed by the brain due to input from our balance cells in our inner ear, vision through our eyes and motion sensors called proprioceptors in our body. The input from these travels to our brain, which then makes sense of where we are and gives us our sense of motion. When we travel in a moving vehicle our vision sends signals to the brain that we are moving while the other sensors sense we are staying still. This mis-coordination of information sends confusing signals to the brain leading to motion sickness.

Common symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting and dizziness. In more severe cases sweating, pallor, drowsiness, shortness of breath and drooling may occur. In most cases the symptoms ease when the movement ceases or in prolonged exposure (such as on a cruise) the body acclimatises to the movement. However in some people the malaise may continue for several days after. Severe motion sickness can make a trip or holiday miserable.

In order to avoid motion sickness firstly try and keep motion to a minimum. Sit over the wing in an airplane, in the middle of a deck on a boat or in the front of a car. Direct your gaze to a fixed point such as the horizon at sea, and gaze straight ahead in a moving car.

Closing your eyes and trying to get some rest may help reduce the chances of motion sickness as visual input is eliminated. However blind people can also get motion sickness so this may not work completely.

Fresh cool air may help so going on deck on a ship or opening a car window may also help. On long car journeys stopping frequently to get out into fresh air can ba solution.

Chewing gum or sucking or chewing sweets may also help. Do not read or do puzzles as this increases the sensory confusion to the brain, making things worse.

Don't eat spicy or greasy foods before travelling and avoid strong odours. Ginger may help with nausea so snacking on ginger biscuits or snaps can be helpful.

There are a number of medicines available for travel sickness so talk to your pharmacist or doctor. Hyoscine or antihistamines are usually recommended. For those who like complimentary remedies there are bands available that provide accupressure that may help.

Combining the remedies above is possible. Medicine is best taken before travel commences. Sleepiness may be a side effect.


My nails have become very brittle lately. They keep splitting and crumbling and I seem unable to grown them at all. Have you any advice?

Nails often reflect our general state of health so a thorough examination of the nail and hands can help provide clues as to how well you are.

Up to 10pc of dermatology complaints may be related to nail health. Nails do become more brittle with age and so most nail complaints are more common in older people.

Symptoms of nail problems include thickening or thinning, and peeling or splitting of the nails. Changes in the nail colour, shape and surface can be significant. Other problems may include changes on the skin surrounding the nail or pain.

Two of the most common causes of brittle nails are prolonged exposure to water or over-use of nail polish. The first may be an occupational hazard. If you wash your hands regularly for work you should apply hand cream frequently throughout the day. Breaking the polish habit and allowing nails to heal and grow naturally may help improve the second.

Fungal infections are the most common cause of nail infections. An under or over-active thyroid may cause nails to become brittle and crack. Psoriasis may cause brittle crumbling nails. It may also cause the nails to appear yellow. Brittle nails may also be associated with other inflammatory arthritis.

If your nail changes are associated with generalised pain in your joints or other physical symptoms, it should be discussed with your doctor.

If your nails are unusually brittle it is worth having a check up. Blood tests may be advised. Nails should be cleaned gently with a soft brush. Cut the nail straight across. Wear protective gloves when washing dishes or using cleaning agents. Moisturise your hands regularly.

Using a nail hardener may help protect nails. There are some suggestions that taking a biotin supplement can help improve nails in those who are biotin-deficient.

Lastly, don't be tempted to use regular polish to cover unsightly nails. The chemicals and techniques used to remove these may exacerbate the problem.

My nails have become very brittle lately. They keep splitting and crumbling and I seem unable to grown them at all. Have you any advice?

Health & Living