What is motion sickness?
Motion sickness, sometimes referred to as sea sickness or car sickness, is a very common disturbance of the inner ear that is caused by repeated motion. Anyone can develop motion sickness, but people vary in their sensitivity to motion. Motion sickness most commonly affects children from 2 to 12 years old, pregnant women, and people who are prone to migraines. In addition to sea travel, motion sickness can develop from the movement of a car or from turbulence in an airplane.
What are symptoms of motion sickness?
Symptoms of motion sickness are:
These symptoms arise from the inner ear (labyrinth) due to changes in a person's sense of balance and equilibrium.
10 Tips to prevent motion sickness
While it may be impossible to prevent all cases of motion sickness, 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 excessive alcohol and foods or liquids that "do not agree with you" or make you feel unusually full. Heavy, spicy, or fat-rich foods may worsen motion sickness in some people.
- Avoiding strong food odors may also help prevent nausea.
- Try to choose a seat where you will experience the least motion. The middle of an airplane over the wing is the calmest area of an airplane. On a ship, those in lower level cabins near the center of a ship generally experience less motion than passengers in higher or outer cabins.
- Do not sit facing backwards from your direction of travel.
- Sit in the front seat of a car.
- Do not read while traveling if you are prone to motion sickness.
- When traveling by car or boat, it can sometimes help to keep your gaze fixed on the horizon or on a fixed point.
- Open a vent or source of fresh air if possible.
- Isolate yourself from others who may be suffering from motion sickness. Hearing others talk about motion sickness or seeing others becoming ill can sometimes make you feel ill yourself.
- The over-the-counter medication meclizine (Bonine, Antivert, Dramamine) can be a very effective preventive measure for short trips or for mild cases of motion sickness. Your doctor also may choose to prescribe medications for longer trips or if you repeatedly develop severe motion sickness. One example of a prescription medication is a patch containing scopolamine (Transderm-Scop) that often is effective in preventing motion sickness. Remember that scopolamine can cause drowsiness and has other side effects, and its use should be discussed with your physician prior to your trip.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
CDC.gov. Motion Sickness.
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