Motion Sickness

Medically Reviewed on 8/8/2022

What is motion sickness (sea sickness, car sickness, altitude sickness)?

Motion sickness symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, and cold sweats.
Motion sickness symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, and cold sweats.

Motion sickness is the feeling you get when the motion you sense with your inner ear is different from the motion you visualize. It is a common condition that occurs in some people who travel by car, train, airplane, or boat. Many people suffer from this condition if they ride on a roller coaster or other similar amusement park rides.

Although pregnant women and children are more susceptible to motion sickness, almost anyone who is traveling is at risk for motion sickness. For those people who travel on boats, seasickness can be considered a form of motion sickness. Other risk factors include:

  • Person's fear or anxiety about traveling
  • Mode of travel
  • Poor ventilation in the traveling vehicle
  • The inability to see out of a window to aid orientation

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

The signs and symptoms of motion sickness usually begin with a feeling of uneasiness followed by cold sweats (sweating) and dizziness. Some people may exhibit:

Nausea and vomiting usually occur after these initial symptoms.

When should I call a doctor for motion sickness?

Most people with motion sickness do not need to see a doctor to treat it unless they experience dehydration from persistent and intractable vomiting. For most people with motion sickness, the symptoms slowly decrease and then disappear.

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness is caused by the mixed signals sent to the brain by the eyes and the inner ear (semicircular canals). If you cannot see the motion your body's feeling, or conversely, if you cannot feel the motion your eyes see, then it is likely that your brain will get mixed signals and you will develop some aspect or symptom of motion sickness.


What is vertigo? See Answer

Do you need to see a doctor to treat motion sickness?

Most people with motion sickness do not need to see their doctor to treat it. Usually, laboratory testing is not required.

What home remedies help motion sickness go away?

Before taking these medications, read the precautions because many of these drugs have side effects, for example:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurry vision
  • Disorientation (occasionally)

People who drive vehicles or operate heavy equipment should not take these medications.

  • Treatment for motion sickness can consist of simple changes in the environment, for example, getting fresh air.
  • Some people with motion sickness respond well to biofeedback training and relaxation techniques.
  • Herbs to treat motion sickness are ginger, peppermint, and tea.
  • Some people respond to acupuncture.

What medicine makes motion sickness go away? Can you cure motion sickness?

Most people with motion sickness can prevent it by taking medications that you put on the skin. Most drugs used to treat motion sickness can help prevent it, but they cannot be cured. Over-the-counter medications, and occasionally prescription medications, are used to relieve and in some cases prevent motion sickness. Some of the more common medications that can be used for motion sickness include:

How can I prevent motion sickness?

Most people with motion sickness can prevent it by taking medications. Most drugs used to treat motion sickness will help prevent it rather than curing it.

There are other ways to reduce or prevent motion sickness without the use of medication. The following is a list of suggestions that may help reduce or prevent motion sickness:

  • Eat light meals or snacks 24 hours before traveling and try to avoid big or high-fat meals.
  • Sit toward the front of an aircraft for a smoother ride.
  • If you're on a boat, ask for a cabin on the upper deck toward the front of the boat, and keep your eyes fixed as much as possible on the horizon or land.
  • During car travel, sit in the front seat of the car, keep your eyes on the horizon, rest your head against the seat back, and try to hold relatively still.
  • On planes, trains, and cars, turn the air vents toward your face.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Short, shallow, and rapid breathing can often contribute to motion sickness symptoms, therefore concentrate on maintaining slow and deep breathing.

There are companies that market bracelets and bands that claim they can prevent motion sickness using acupressure technology against certain pressure points that block the transmission of nausea before the brain can register it. Though these products may work for some people, most evidence is anecdotal, and large studies have not been conducted to prove efficacy.

Medically Reviewed on 8/8/2022
Motion Sickness. Last reviewed Oct 23, 2017.

Motion Sickness. University of Maryland Medical Center.