What is motion sickness?
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. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of
uneasiness to sweating and/or dizziness. This is usually quickly followed by
nausea and/or vomiting.
Who is at risk for motion sickness?
Although pregnant women and children are more susceptible to motion sickness,
almost anyone that 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 the person's fear or anxiety about traveling, the
mode of travel, poor ventilation in the traveling vehicle, and the inability to
see out of a window to aid orientation.
What are causes of 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 the brain will get mixed signals and the person will develop
some aspect or symptom of motion sickness.
What are the signs and symptoms of motion sickness?
The signs and symptoms of motion sickness usually begin with a feeling of
uneasiness followed by cold sweats and dizziness. Some people may exhibit pale
skin and increased saliva production along with headache and fatigue. Nausea and
vomiting usually occur after these initial symptoms.
When should I call a doctor for motion sickness?
In most cases, a doctor doesn't need to be called for motion sickness unless
the person starts to develop dehydration from persistent and intractable
vomiting. In most people, once the motion has stopped, the symptoms slowly
decrease and then disappear.
How is motion sickness diagnosed?
In general, motion sickness is diagnosed by the patient's history and
physical examination. The individual's description of symptoms and the context
in which they occur is most often sufficient to make the diagnosis. Laboratory
testing is not generally required.
What is the treatment for motion sickness?
Treatment for motion sickness can consist of medical treatment, simple
changes in the environment (for example, sitting by the open window of a car),
over-the-counter (OTC) medications and for some people, home remedies may be
effective. In addition, some patients respond well to biofeedback training and
Quick GuideBalance Disorders: Vertigo, Motion Sickness, Labyrinthitis, and More
10 Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is sometimes referred to as sea sickness or car sickness. The symptoms of motion sickness are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, and a sense of feeling unwell.
The following tips can help you prevent or lessen the severity of motion sickness:
- Watch your consumption of foods, drinks, and alcohol before and during travel. Avoid foods with strong odors to help prevent nausea.
Home remedies for motion sickness
Although few, if any, studies have examined the effectiveness of home
remedies, people have used herbs such as ginger, peppermint, and tea as home
remedies for motion sickness. In addition, some people respond well to
OTC and prescription medication for motion sickness
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:
Before taking any of these medications, read the precautions as many of these
medications have side effects that include drowsiness, dry mouth, blurry vision,
and occasionally disorientation. Therefore, these medications should not be
taken by people who drive vehicles or operate heavy equipment.
Can motion sickness be prevented?
In most cases, motion sickness can be prevented by taking the medications
listed above, as they are often administered before a person is likely to
experience motion sickness. Most of these medications are designed to prevent
motion sickness rather than to cure 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 content meals
- Sit toward the front of an aircraft for a smoother
- 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 and keep your eyes on the horizon, and 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 which claim that
they can prevent motion sickness using acupressure technology against certain
pressure points, so that the transmission of nausea is blocked before it can be
registered by the brain. Though these products may work for some people, most
evidence is anecdotal and large studies have not been conducted to prove
Medically Reviewed on 8/8/2016
Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine
CDC.gov. Motion Sickness.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Motion Sickness.