Is it normal to feel nauseated while riding the metro?
January 27, 2013 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to feel nauseated while riding the metro?

I moved to the Washington D.C. area recently and have been taking the metro to work. When I have a seat, I feel fine. But whenever I have to stand, after about 2-5 minutes, I start to feel lightheaded, out-of-breath and nauseated. It gets so bad that once I sat down on the floor after 15 minutes of standing because it got to the point where I was about to throw up.

I don't understand why this is happening; I used to work in Beijing, and never got sick when I was standing on the subway for long stretches of time.

Could it just be the way the metros are driven, or are there potential health issues that I should be worried about?
posted by instantfail to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was feeling nauseated at the same time every morning for weeks, and went to a doctor who figured I must have some sort of ear infection. I took a round of antibiotics and the problem was solved.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:55 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a hard time with the dry cleaning solutions that some cars are cleaned with, so there's there's that. I walk from car to car until I find one that doesn't have that nauseating chemical in it.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:59 PM on January 27, 2013

I get very nauseated on the Metro, sitting or standing. I had no problem with the T when I lived in Boston. Maybe it's the condition of the tracks?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:03 PM on January 27, 2013

Just nauseated, or lightheaded, too? The times I've had to sit down or crouch down on the SF subway were because rushing to the station in my winter coat and then getting on a warm, packed car post-exertion were more than my predisposition to vasovagal syncope could handle.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:06 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you ever get carsick? Some stretches of the metro do involve some fast turns and sections that cause me to feel a little nauseated, because I get carsick really easily. After the 2009 accident, some changes were made to handling the trains, and it does feel more jerky to me sometimes. Also, depending on the stretch you're on, the amount of track work that they've been doing sometimes causes weird pausing and starting.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:07 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I see you mentioned lightheaded now. Consider whether you're overexerting on the way to the subway. Especially if you are going from just-woken-up to out-the-door to subway stop. I got evaluated by a cardiologist to make sure it was nothing more serious.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:07 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have your arm above your head when you stand? For me (also a vasovagal syncope person!) that can cause circulation things that'll make me start to feel weird. Combine it with the movement of the metro and I would totally be in the same situation.

Also, if you are standing away from any vertical supports, there is a LOT more body swaying and movement than when seated, which might sort of add up faster to an uncomfortable sensation. Perhaps try to lean against something if you're standing?
posted by HermitDog at 6:20 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never have, but my sister, who also easily gets carsick, refuses to ride it anymore because of nausea.
posted by PussKillian at 6:49 PM on January 27, 2013

I've had Metro-riding problems with lightheadedness and nausea, ironically, when hungry. I found that a snack of something light but satiating like yogurt helps. Not sure if you are a regular meal eater but if not maybe the snack would help?
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:23 PM on January 27, 2013

Simply judging by the amount of sick I have to step around in and around underground stations, I'd have to guess that this is not unusual.
posted by trip and a half at 7:29 PM on January 27, 2013

DC's Metro is deeper underground than most of the subways I've been in, with the exception of London.

Maybe it's how the change in air pressure is affecting you.
posted by brujita at 7:45 PM on January 27, 2013

"Normal?" Not in the sense that it's the most common reaction to riding the metro. Think of how many millions of people ride that thing a month (maybe even a week) without issue. Normal in that it's an acceptable reaction that perfectly fine people can have? I assume so. Your reaction sounds rather strong -- if you have health insurance, why not mention to a doctor?

I never had issues feeling sick on it, standing or sitting. I have a friend who gets car sick and she takes the metro to work everyday. I did start taking the bus though because have literally 3 different strangers pressed against my body simuktaneously at 8 a.m. isn't my idea of a good time.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2013

I have had problems on the Metro in terms of motion sickness when I've stood at the front of the train. (I am pretty prone to motion sickness overall, though.) If it occurs no matter where you stand -- then well, that's just the case for you on the Metro.

I do find the vibrations/rhythm of the Metro to be less soothing than other subways I've been on. It's not the most comfortable mass transit system but I do think it does its job.
posted by darksong at 8:16 PM on January 27, 2013

I get motion sickness on buses and subways. What helps me is ginger.

Now, I understand that you can't eat or drink in the Metro, but if they allow you to pop in a breath mint or two, Altoids makes a great ginger mint. (My personal favorite are the Ting Ting Jahe ginger candies from Indonesia, but they may frown on popping candy vs a breath mint.)
posted by spinifex23 at 8:19 PM on January 27, 2013

I too get nauseous on the Metro. Constantly. Also i am prone to motion sickness in autos when i am not the driver. I ride from nearly the end of one line of the Metro to the end of another for my work commute - going under the Anacostia is the worst. Shorter rides are easier. Riding while hungry or after a long day of looking at a monitor can trigger nausea/woozyness. I would have to agree with the poster above who noted the rise of herky jerky drivers after the 2009 accident. This has been my observation. Things that i use to cope - eat saltines before the ride, pop a bonine, listen to music or something, dont read much, face either sideways or forwards. Hopefully you can find something that works for you. If youre really worried you can have an ENT test for inner ear or balance issues.
posted by tinysparrow at 8:29 PM on January 27, 2013

My cousin has a similar issue with PDX buses. Her solution: ride a bike.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2013

I often feel a little sick on trains. Whenever I feel that sensation I do one or more of the following: make sure I am standing or sitting in the same direction as the train is travelling, continually sip still water, suck on a mint/hard plain candy, don't look out window, look at the floor or close my eyes (if I am sitting), breath deeply through my nose. Doing these things makes the feeling pass.
posted by MT at 8:56 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually get sick in the metro if I don't look out the window. I also get carsick, fwiw.
posted by empath at 9:05 PM on January 27, 2013

Are you trying to read during the ride? That always ramps up my own carsick tendancies --- it's the conflict in the information your brain is receiving: your inner ear says 'we're moving' and your eyes say 'we're holding still'. And try to avoid those overhead hangers and holding your arm up that way (one reason I avoid the Metro during ANY busy periods: I'm 5'1", and those dang things practically have me on tiptoe.)
posted by easily confused at 3:09 AM on January 28, 2013

I don't get sick on trains, and I've ridden LOTS of them, but I get that carsick feeling on the DC metro. I'm convinced it's the smell that triggers it for me.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:24 AM on January 28, 2013

Depending on what line you're on, it might be some residual ick from fish brakes.
posted by sperose at 5:08 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I sometimes get nauseous on the DC metro, more so than NY. Not sure why. Mezicline (the active ingredient in non-drowsy dramamine) helps.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:01 AM on January 28, 2013

It's very common in DC now after the 2009 accident, as jetlagaddict mentioned up thread. The reason is because the operators are now required to manually stop the train at each stop, which causes that jerkier motion, as opposed to the smoother, yet lethal, auto-pilot system that was in place pre-accident. There was a Washington Post article about the growing amount of people feeling sick on the Metro shortly after these changes, but I can't find it right now.
posted by the foreground at 9:20 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does it make a difference if you face a certain direction? I felt queasy and lightheaded on the El (in Chicago), whether sitting or standing, if I was facing sideways. Facing forward--the direction the El was heading--was best, and facing backwards was usually OK, but sideways was always bad.
posted by homelystar at 11:12 AM on January 28, 2013

Just chiming in to the chorus to note that while I've never felt nauseated while riding the Metro, I do know someone who does and finds it worse than other subway systems.
posted by beryllium at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2013

I get woozy when riding the DC metro as well. What helps me most is to sit on the seats facing sideways instead of forward or back and if i have to stand, facing the doors instead of front of back. I do not get this sick feeling when riding any other subway in the world, and i have ridden a lot of them.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2013

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