Motion Sickness

Travel Guide Travel Health Motion Sickness



Motion Sickness is one of those conditions that isn't caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite. It's actually a condition created by a disagreement between what our eyes see, our bodies feel and what our brain tries to make of it all. Also known as sea sickness, car sickness and air sickness - it all boils down to one thing - motion sickness. Motion sickness is most common in women, especially during menstruation or pregnancy, and in children under 12 years of age. Those who suffer from migraine headaches are also more susceptible. The condition affects ~50% of children while traveling by car or airplane. It affects ~100% of children and adults when traveling by boat/ship in high seas. No matter what the mode of transportation, motion sickness is an unpleasant experience.[1][2]

Eyes + Ears + Brain

Motion sickness strikes when a combination of things occur all at the same time. We rely on our inner ear (actually both inner ears - also known as the labyrinths) for balance. We rely on our eye sight for stability and focal orientation. We rely on the rest of our body for physical orientation. Our brain takes for granted that these things will remain in harmony - walking is the perfect example. Walking allows sufficient time for our brain to connect the dots and go our merry way. Cars, boats, trains and airplanes are more unpredictable and make unpredictable movements which throw off our sense of stability on all levels. When we add eyes, ears, brain and unpredictible motion together, the end result is motion sickness. Imporant fact: the ear is comprised of three spaces - outer, middle and inner - the outer and middle spaces are filled with air and the inner space is filled with fluid. When we move our head, we also change the pressure in our ears, regardless if it's up, down, or side to side. Our ears respond first by feeling a change in pressure. Our bodies then respond to the change in physical orientation (up, down or side to side). Our eyes try to follow suit by adjusting focal orientation and our brain tries to quickly sort it all out - unsuccessfully. Again, the end result is a mish-mash of mixed signals all equating to that horribly uncomfortable feeling. [1]




  • Focus on the horizon or a stationary object (close or far) while in motion.
  • Do not attempt to read.
  • Keep your head still by resting against the back of the seat.
  • Drink carbonated beverages and/or eat dry crackers to settle the stomach.
  • Take an OTC anti-histamine (Antivert™, Bonine™) or anti-emetic (Dramamine™, Gravol™) 30-60 minutes before traveling. Drowsiness may be a side effect.
  • Application of a scopolamine skin patch (Transderm Scop™) behind the ear four hours prior to travel. Transderm Scop™ is by prescription only.
  • Elastic wrist bands with plastic stud (Sea-Band™, BioBand™) applied to the Nei Kuan acupressure point on each wrist.[3]

Preventative Pre-Planning

  • Car - driver's or front passenger's seat.
  • Ship - request a cabin at the front or in middle of ship, preferrably on the upper deck.
  • Boat - request/choose a seat inside center of the boat.
  • Plane - request a seat over front edge of either wing.
  • Train - choose a seat near front of car, next to a window and facing forward.[3]



Symptoms and Treatment


The symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, dizziness/vertigo, general discomfort, sweating, cold sweats and gastro-intestinal discomfort.


  • See "Prevention".


Motion Sickness Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Motion Sickness

This is version 10. Last edited at 3:56 on May 18, 08 by Isadora. 216 articles link to this page.

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