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.
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
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Motion sickness is more common in women and children. Other factors that may increase your chance of motion sickness include: Family members who get motion sicknessA long or rough car, boat, plane, or train rideAmusement park ridesMigraine headaches
The most common symptoms include: LightheadednessUpset stomachNausea or vomiting
Other symptoms include: Tiredness or sleepinessSweatingCold, clammy feelingFeeling faintHeadacheLoss of color, especially in the face
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
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, medications may be given rectally or through an IV. If motion sickness lasts a long time, fluids may be given in order to prevent
Strategies to prevent motion sickness include:
Medication that prevent motion sickness should be taken as directed before you begin a trip or ride. These medications can cause side effects, such as drowsiness, lack of alertness, or trouble concentrating.
Medications include: Over-the-counter antihistaminesPrescription scopolamineProchlorperazine, promethazine, or chlorpromazine
Repeated exposure to the motion that causes the sickness can decrease your symptoms. This treatment can take time and may be unpleasant.
Commonly used alternative remedies include: Pressure patch worn on the wrist to put pressure on certain pointsGinger
There are steps that you can take to be more prepared:
Before you go: Avoid heavy meals or spicy foodsAvoid excess alcoholGet plenty of sleep
For cars: Try to sit in the front seat or volunteer to driveDon't reading while in motionEat small, frequent meals or snacksAvoid excess alcoholDon't look at moving objectsAsk the driver to slow down or stop if you start to feel sick
For planes, trains, or boats: Get a window seat and look outsideSit over the wing on a planeSit 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.
Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/content/dizziness-and-motion-sickness. 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.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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