Motion Sickness

A range of symptoms, generally including nausea, caused by motion during travel by road, sea, or air

  • Can occur at any age; most common in children aged 3–12
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

Most people experience some degree of motion sickness at some time in their lives. The condition is especially common in children. Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives messages from the organs of balance in the inner ear and from the eyes that conflict with one another. For example, when you travel in a car, the inner ear senses the motion, but, if you look at the interior of the car, the eyes may perceive it as stationary. The conflicting messages that the brain receives may lead to a feeling of nausea.

What are the symptoms?

In its mildest form, motion sickness may produce only a feeling of uneasiness. However, the initial symptoms of motion sickness usually include:

  • Nausea.

  • Headache and dizziness.

  • Lethargy and tiredness.

If the motion continues after the onset of symptoms, the initial symptoms typically get worse and other symptoms, such as pale skin, excessive sweating, yawning, hyperventilation (abnormally deep or rapid breathing), and vomiting may occur. Poor ventilation in the vehicle may make the symptoms worse.

What can I do?

Before travelling, you should eat only small amounts and not drink alcohol. When travelling, you should try to sit in a cool, well-ventilated position and avoid reading or looking at nearby objects. Instead, try to look at the horizon or a distant object in the direction of travel. Drivers have to maintain their focus on the road ahead and so are usually unaffected by motion sickness.

There are many drugs, both over-the-counter and prescription, available to prevent or treat motion sickness (see Antiemetic drugs, and Antihistamines). To prevent symptoms, the medication should be taken before travelling, but, if you are driving, you should avoid certain drugs that may cause drowsiness. Many of these drugs can also increase the effects of alcohol.

Motion sickness remedies based on ginger plant stems, which have been shown to be effective in preventing nausea in controlled research trials, are available in health-food stores.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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