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Definition

Motion sickness is characterized by the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Nausea and vomiting can be caused by motion itself or simply from feeling the sensation of motion, as when watching a movie or playing a video game.

Causes

Balance and equilibrium are maintained by an interaction among the inner ears, the eyes, pressure receptors on the skin, and motion receptors in the muscles and joints.

Motion sickness results when conflicting messages regarding spatial orientation and motion of the body are sent to the central nervous system. For example, reading a book while riding in a car may cause your eyes to send different messages than your inner ears do regarding motion.

Central Nervous System
Central Nervous System
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Motion sickness is more common in women and children. Other factors that increase your chances of getting motion sickness include:

  • Family members who get motion sickness
  • A long or rough car, boat, plane, or train ride
  • Amusement park rides
  • Migraine headaches

Symptoms

The most common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea or vomiting

Other symptoms include:

  • Tiredness or sleepiness
  • Sweating
  • Cold, clammy feeling
  • Feeling faint
  • Headache
  • Loss of color, especially in the face

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Treatment

Symptoms of motion sickness usually go away soon after the motion stops. But, for some people, the symptoms can last a day or more. The main treatment for motion sickness is rest.

To help control vomiting, medicines may be given rectally or through an IV. If motion sickness lasts a long time, fluids may be given in order to prevent dehydration .

Prevention

Strategies to prevent motion sickness include:

Medications

Medication that prevent motion sickness should be taken as directed before you begin a trip or ride. These medicines can cause side effects, such as drowsiness, lack of alertness, or trouble concentrating.

Medications include:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines
  • Prescription scopolamine
  • Prochlorperazine, promethazine, or chlorpromazine

Repeated Exposure

Repeated exposure to the motion that causes the sickness can decrease your symptoms. This treatment can take time and may be unpleasant.

Alternative Remedies

Commonly used alternative remedies include:

  • Pressure patch worn on the wrist to put pressure on certain points
  • Ginger

Lifestyle Changes

There are steps that you can take to be more prepared:

Before you go:

  • Avoid heavy meals or spicy foods
  • Avoid excess alcohol
  • Get plenty of sleep

For cars:

  • Try to sit in the front seat or volunteer to drive
  • Don't reading while in motion
  • Eat small, frequent meals or snacks
  • Avoid excess alcohol
  • Don't look at moving objects
  • Ask the driver to slow down or stop if you start to feel sick

For planes, trains, or boats:

  • Get a window seat and look outside
  • Sit over the wing on a plane
  • Sit in the middle of a boat and try to get some fresh air

Try to avoid amusement parks, virtual reality rides, and movies that may lead to motion sickness.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2014 -
  • Update Date: 00/50/2014 -
  • FamilyDoctor.org - American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://www.familydoctor.org

  • HealthyChildren.org - American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.healthychildren.org

  • Canadian Family Physician

    http://www.cfpc.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/dizzinessMotionSickness.cfm. Updated December 2010. Accessed April 25, 2013.

  • Motion sickness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/motion-sickness.htm. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed April 25, 2013.

  • Murdin L, Golding J, Bronstein A. Managing motion sickness. BMJ. 2011;343:d7430.

  • Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2013.