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Motion Sickness

Overview of motion sickness

Kinetosis or better known as motion sickness is also known as Travel Sickness.

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It is a very common disturbance of the inner ear that is caused by a mismatch between the senses that the ear perceives and the visuals that the eye sees. This disturbance is caused by repeated motions like movement of a car, motion of a plane in turbulent sky or the swell of the sea. Depending on the stimulation, motion sickness can be named as car sickness, air sickness or sea sickness respectively. It can also be simulation sickness or space sickness.

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Demography of motion sickness

Motion sickness is a common problem. Almost 80% of the general population suffers from it one time in their lives. However, it is observed that people suffering from migraine headaches or Ménière's syndrome are more susceptible to this medical condition.

In 2003, the researchers at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California, reported that 70% of the cases of severe motion sickness are caused by the abnormalities of the vestibular system. These types of abnormalities are usually found in patients who suffer from migraine attacks or Ménière's disease.

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Though motion sickness may occur at any age, it is more common in children over the age of two. It is also observed that motion sickness from cars, elevators, trains, and swings is most common in children. On the other hand, motion sickness from boats and airplanes is common in adults.

However, it should be kept in mind that people who suffer from one kind of motion sickness are not always susceptible to the other types.

Causes for motion sickness

As mentioned above, most cases of motion sickness are due to abnormalities of the vestibular system.

Certain repetitive or continuous motions like that experienced in a car, ship, plane or fun ride causes excessive stimulation of the labyrinthine receptors of the inner ear.

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This disorder is also caused by the confusion in the brain due to conflicting sensory inputs. The visual stimulus which is a moving horizon conflicts with the labyrinthine perception of the ears.

Apart from visual stimuli, other factors that also cause motion sickness are:

  • Poor ventilation caused by gas fumes and smoke;
  • Emotional factors such as fear and anxiety;
  • Offensive odors like tobacco smoke and other food odors; or
  • Sights and sounds associated with a previous attack.

Symptoms of motion sickness

The symptoms of motion sickness are very apparent.

The common symptoms of motion sickness are:

  • A paleness of the skin which is at times is followed by yawning,
  • Restlessness and cold sweat.

As the severity of the condition increases, symptoms like malaise and drowsiness set in, sometimes accompanied by an upset stomach.

These symptoms are further followed by excessive salivation, nausea and vomiting. However, people with more resistance instead of vomiting generally experience a waxing and waning of symptoms. These people usually never actually vomit.

Medical Treatment for motion sickness

Antihistamine medications

The most common treatment for motion sickness is Antihistamine medications. 

Antihistamines are commonly used in the prevention and treatment of nausea, vomiting and dizziness that are caused by motion sickness.

These medicines calm the stimulation of the inner ear. Some of the antihistamines that are commonly used to treat motion sickness are: Meclizines like Bonine, Antivert and Dramamine.

However, antihistamine treatments are not advised for children below the age of 12. It is also not advisable for people suffering from other medical conditions to undergo antihistamine treatments without their doctor’s consent.

Scopolamine skin patch

Scopolamine skin patch (Transderm Scop) is another line of treatment for motion sickness. At least four hours prior to the actual journey, this medicated skin patch is applied behind the ear.

The underlying skin slowly absorbs the medication. However, this through-the-skin delivery system method is not advised for children, pregnant women, and people suffering from liver, kidney, or bladder disease.

The most important thing to keep in mind while treating motion sickness is that the medications are to be given much before the actual time of the activity. This is because, once the activity begins and the symptoms set in, the medications are not able to control the repercussions.

Natural Home Remedies for Motion Sickness


An empty stomach usually is more susceptible to motion sickness. So one must carry these easily digestible snacks along and nibble on them every couple of hours. This helps in preventing nausea and vomiting.


A very common herbal remedy for motion sickness is Ginger. Some studies even put Ginger as a better medication in comparison to the regular over the counter motion sickness drugs. One can make Ginger tea by cutting 10 to 12 slices of fresh ginger and placing them in a pot with one quart of water. This is then boiled for ten minutes. Thereafter, the ginger slices are strained out and the ginger tea is sweetened with 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup. This should be consumed during the journey.

Low fat foods

Before starting off on the journey, one must eat a low fat meal to avoid getting sick. Experts say that an empty stomach destabilizes the electrical signals of the stomach thereby making it more susceptible to nausea and vomiting. A low fat meal before the journey makes the stomach more capable in handling the ups and downs of the journey.

Peppermint candies or lozenges

At times peppermints and lozenges can calm the feeling of nausea as well as the queasiness during the journey. In case of children, one drop of peppermint oil on their tongues may also help.


When the feeling of nausea set in, a cup of warm tea may provide some relief. Warm beverages are more suitable for nauseated tummy than a tall glass of cold water. However, one should always go for decaffeinated brew as caffeinated drinks are not good for unstable stomachs.

Prevention of Motion Sickness

Preventing motion sickness is easier than treating it once it has already set in. Some common precautions that can be easily followed during the journey are:

A place should be selected where the motion is least. In case of a car the front seat which looks ahead should be selected. In a bus, the seat just behind the front door is most suitable. In an airplane, a seat over the wing is the best as it blocks the view of the moving objects. While on a ship, the middle of the ship (preferably on the deck) is the best.

One must keep his head still and focus on the distant horizon. The eyes may be kept closed to avoid looking at fast moving scenery or waves. It is preferable to divert ones attention from the motion of the vehicle to something else. However, reading is not recommended.

Overindulgence in food or alcohol for at least 24 hours prior to travel should be strictly avoided.

Tips for prevention of motion sickness

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: February 22, 2016

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