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.
Motion sickness is more common in women and children. Other factors that may increase your chance of motion sickness include:
The most common symptoms include:
Other symptoms include:
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 dehydration.
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.
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:
There are steps that you can take to be more prepared:
Before you go:
For planes, trains, or boats:
Try to avoid amusement parks, virtual reality rides, and movies that may lead to motion sickness.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
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. BMJ. 2011;343:d7430.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900007/Nausea-and-vomiting-in-adults. Updated April 29, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board 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.