Stop the New York World, I want to get off
January 30, 2008 6:33 PM   Subscribe

How can I avoid motion sickness while reading microfilm, or, failing that, clear my head quickly?

If you've never heard of this, I know it sounds hilariously hypochondriac, but -- yes! Microfilm! In my job, I regularly have to search for small items in old newspapers. It's a lot of fun, but it's usually only an hour into the work when I'm headachy, nauseous, and feeling as if the room is suddenly very small.

I looked up tips for this kind of thing, which, luckily, hasn't only happened to me. I've learned not to watch the reel spin by on the screen when I'm cranking it forward. Sometimes, though, I absolutely have to watch days' worth of newspapers pass slowly by me as I look for the desired item, not knowing precisely where it is or if it was printed at all. This is especially the case with early 20th century newspapers that didn't index their articles by subject every day, but just filled up the columns with news tidbits.

Dramamine causes drowsiness, I understand, and I can't take anything that would interfere with going back to the office and getting on with the day. Due to scheduling, I need to get as much productive good out of each library trip as possible.

If I'm stuck with the symptoms, I'm stuck. Does anybody have tricks for a quick head-clearing? (A walk helps, but the symptoms are immediately just as bad when I start again.)
posted by Countess Elena to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Try palming. It works for me when I've been staring at a screen all day long.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:41 PM on January 30, 2008

I've had this problem in the past too.

The only thing that worked for me was to take regular breaks and focus my eyes on a distant object. If you need to take a short rest every few minutes, do it. It feels like wasting time, but it helps.
posted by 26.2 at 7:30 PM on January 30, 2008

You could try sucking on a slice of ginger root or candied ginger, drinking ginger tea, or swallowing a capsule of dried ginger. It would be easy to try, inexpensive, over-the-counter, unlikely to cause side effects, and might help you avoid the symptoms.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:13 PM on January 30, 2008

Ever few minutes, I take a very short break and focus on things at various distances. I'll go back and forth, focusing on things that are close, far, closer, farther.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:14 PM on January 30, 2008

Thanks, guys. I can't bring any drinks in, so I'd marked off ginger ale, but I can get candied ginger in no problem.

HotPatatta, that sounds like a good trick.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:15 AM on January 31, 2008

I regularly troll through microfilmed newspapers. I was doing it last night for an hour as a matter of fact. Using the automatic forward really makes me dizzy so I typically hand forward the film. It's not good for the carpal tunnel syndrome but it works better on the eyes. If you get a good feel for it you can quickly turn it to go from page to page which lessens the motion sickness. I wish there was a machine that had a page by page advance mode.
posted by JJ86 at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2008

When I have to search microfilm I have the same problem. I had to not look while I move the film back and forth. That was the only way I could get through it. Don't look when you scroll.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:20 AM on January 31, 2008

Ginger! *nods*
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:02 AM on January 31, 2008

If Dramamine helps, use the non-drowsy formula. It's also available as generic meclizine. That, and when you know you've got several days to go through, look away from the screne, as Taken Outtacontext suggested.

(I'm getting a little lightheaded just thinking about this.)
posted by bryon at 6:00 PM on January 31, 2008

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