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Motion Sickness, an Unpleasant Sensation

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Motion Sickness, an Unpleasant Sensation

4 min read


Would you like to travel without motion sickness? Read the below article to know more about morning sickness.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. K. Shobana

Published At September 14, 2015
Reviewed AtAugust 1, 2023

What Is Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is an unpleasant combination of symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and vomiting that can happen from any kind of movement. It has been estimated that one in three people may get motion sickness at some point. This condition is commonly seen in women and children aged 2 to 12. But still, the condition can affect anyone.

What Are the Causes of Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness or kinetosis occurs when two motion messages to the brain conflict. One motion message is from the inner ear (controls balance), and another is from the eyes; due to a change in position caused by travel, these two motion messages conflict, causing motion sickness.

Sensory organs play a major role in the mechanism of motion sickness. The sensory organs will inform the brain in what direction the body is pointing, moving, and whether standing still or turning. These messages will be then passed on to the inner ears, eyes, the skin pressure receptors in the feet, muscle, and joint sensory receptors, which track what body parts are moving, and the central nervous system that includes the brain and spinal cord for processing all incoming sensory information.

They are also named car sickness, airsickness, or seasickness. People with a history of motion sickness should ask a healthcare provider how to prevent another episode from occurring in the future.

There is a disagreement between the brain's signals from ears, eyes, and other sensory receptors.

  • Poor ventilation.

  • Traveling by car, train, or airplane.

  • Roller coaster or other similar rides in an amusement park.

  • Ship or boat rides (seasickness).

  • Using a rocking chair or hammock swing.

  • Rotating devices such as centrifuges are used in astronaut training.

  • Dizziness due to spinning.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Motion Sickness?

Prior history of motion sickness causes stress and anxiety, and it can increase the risk. The other factors that can increase the risk of motion sickness are;

  • Family history of motion sickness.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Migraines.

  • Inner ear disorders.

  • Hormonal birth control.

  • Menstrual periods.

  • Parkinson's disease.

  • Female gender.

  • Children between the ages of 2 and 12.

What Are the Symptoms of Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is a feeling of sickness induced by motion. Dizziness, nausea, and occasionally vomiting, fatigue and pallor (looking pale), non-vertiginous dizziness associated symptoms like headache, loss of or trouble maintaining your balance, malaise (tiredness), weakness, increased saliva production, cold diaphoresis (cold sweat), and flushing. Short, shallow, and rapid breathing will also be present.

What Are the Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness?

  • Avoid excessive food and liquids that make you feel full.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Avoid alcohol while traveling.

  • Eat a light meal or avoid food altogether before traveling.

  • Heavy food, spicy, fat-rich food makes one more sick.

  • Avoid foods that do not agree with you.

  • Sit in the front seat in the car or choose a comfortable seat.

  • Avoid reading or watching movies while traveling.

  • Do not sit in a backward-facing seat.

  • Look straight ahead at a fixed point.

  • Do not read while traveling.

  • Maintain a reasonably straight-ahead view.

  • Sit where there is fresh air while traveling.

  • Take medication for motion sickness at least 30 to 60 minutes before traveling.

  • Do not travel during difficult weather conditions like storms, large waves, air turbulence.

  • Avoid traveling in rough terrain, where frequent acceleration and deceleration will occur.

  • Avoid traveling where visibility is reduced.

  • Avoid watching or talking with a co-traveler who is having motion sickness.

  • The head can rest on the back of the seat.

What Is the Favorable Position With Least Motion?

  • Plane: Over the wing.

  • Car: Front seat (driver or passenger).

  • Boat: The level closest to the water surface with a face towards the waves and away from the rocking bow.

  • Bus: Sit near the front at the lowest level facing forward.

  • Train: Sit at the lowest level facing forward.

How to Treat Motion Sickness?

The symptoms of motion sickness will stop once the motion stops. But medication can help manage the condition during travel.

An antiemetic is a group of drugs that help control motion sickness symptoms. Over-the-counter medicines, Meclizine, can be very effective. Medications such as Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine, Meni-D, Antrizine, Phenergan, Phenadoz, Promethegan), Promethazine, Scopolamine (transdermal patches, Transderm-Scop), Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and Cyclizine (Marezine) can be very helpful.

Before taking the medications for motion sickness, read the precautions on the package because most of these drugs may have side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, blurry vision, or disorientation. These medications should not be taken by people who drive vehicles or operate heavy equipment.

What Are the Home Remedies for Motion Sickness?

Treatment for motion sickness usually consists of simple changes in the environment, which includes:

  • Getting fresh air.

  • Biofeedback training.

  • Relaxation techniques.

  • Acupuncture.

  • Herbs like ginger, peppermint, and tea.

  • Essential oils.

  • Lemon.

  • Pickle juice.

  • Lozenges.

  • Candies.

  • Face forwards and turn the air vents towards your face.

What Is the Prognosis of Motion Sickness?

We cannot cure motion sickness completely, but its symptoms can be controlled or prevented. People respond well to the treatments, and it can also help prevent the symptoms.

What Are the Complications of Motion Sickness?

Complications with motion sickness are not usually seen, but it may cause dehydration, electrolyte problems, or a lower esophageal tear due to severe or continuous vomiting when left untreated.


Motion sickness is the unpleasant sensation that causes nausea and dizziness while riding in a moving vehicle. Nearly all people are affected with motion sickness, and most people will experience motion sickness at least once in their lifetime. Astronauts in zero-gravity space also suffer from motion sickness called the space adaptation syndrome. This condition cannot be cured but can be avoided and managed.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does It Feel When a Person Has Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is often felt when someone is traveling on the road, sea, or air. If someone is affected with motion sickness, they may feel clammy, queasy, sick in their stomach, or nausea and vomiting. About one in three people get motion sickness at some point of life.


What Is the Cause of Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when there is an imbalance in what a person sees and what they feel. For instance, when a person travels forward in a car, their body stands still; this imbalance causes motion sickness. People get motion sickness when they travel on the road, sea, or air.


How to Reduce Motion Sickness?

Following a few tips before and during travel helps in reducing motion sickness.
- Avoid heavy meals before and during travel.
- Choose a seat where less motion is experienced.
- Do not sit facing backward from the direction of travel.
- Sit in the front seat of the car.
- Do not read while in motion.
- Try to get fresh air while traveling.
- Looking straight ahead at a fixed point.
- Try over-the-counter medicine for motion sickness.
- Take a small piece of ginger for half an hour before traveling for the best results.


Whether Motion Sickness Happens Due to Anxiety?

Anxiety is known to trigger motion sickness. Some people with anxiety can experience anxiety while traveling on the roads, air, water, or similar movements. This is because the body's levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin change while in anxiety.


How Long Does Motion Sickness Last?

Motion sickness symptoms usually go away after the motion has stopped. But for some people, it can last up to three days to completely resolve. Motion sickness does not cause serious complications to worry about.


Are Old People More Affected by Motion Sickness?

Old-age people are more affected by motion sickness because the inner ear is less flexible and malleable than young people, so the shifts feel more dramatic. As they age, the inner ear becomes more rigid as the eustachian tubes descend and firm.


How Can Motion Anxiety Be Overcome?

Motion sickness due to anxiety can be reduced by controlling stress, increasing rest and relaxation, practicing relaxed breathing, and not worrying about motion sickness. This symptom will completely disappear when the body has recovered from the anxiety response.


What Are the Types of Motion Sicknesses?

There are two types of motion sickness:
- The first and most common type occurs when the eyes do not register motion, but the vestibular systems do. This can occur on land, on the sea, or in the air.
- The second type of motion sickness is also called reverse motion sickness, which is the opposite of the traditional type. In this type, the eyes register motion, but the vestibular systems do not agree with the visual input. For example, watching movies with jerky visuals, playing video games, etc.


Can Dehydration Cause Motion Sickness?

Dehydration can lead to motion sickness and headache, so it is important to drink plenty of water before traveling. But do not drink beverages like coffee, tea, or carbonated drinks, which can cause dehydration. Always carry water while traveling to avoid dehydration.


What Can Trigger Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is triggered by several movements, such as riding in cars or boats, seeing motion on a screen, reading in the car, not getting enough air, or amusement rides. Even looking at the movement of other things can trigger motion sickness. So planning ahead and eliminating the triggers can prevent motion sickness.


What Is the Treatment for Motion Sickness?

There are many treatments to prevent the onset of motion sickness. Frequently used motion sickness medications include Hyoscine hydrobromide, known as Scopolamine. In addition, over-the-counter motion sickness medication Dimenhydrinate can also be used.
Dr. Vandana Andrews
Dr. Vandana Andrews

General Practitioner


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