According to the Cleveland Clinic, one out of three people experience motion sickness at some point in time. It mostly occurs in children under twelve.¹ It has also been found that people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more prone to motion sickness compared to people assigned male at birth (AMAB).
What is motion sickness?
As the name suggests, motion sickness or travel sickness is the sickness experienced during motion or traveling. Car sickness, air sickness, sea sickness, or rider's vertigo are all different names for motion sickness. Motion sickness can happen while traveling in a car, plane, boat, and even during rides in amusement parks. It can even happen when playing video games. Nausea is the main symptom of motion sickness.
Causes of motion sickness
One out of three people experience motion sickness. Studies suggest that children, people AFAB, and Asians are more susceptible to it.² Individuals suffering from migraine headaches are also more susceptible to motion sickness.
There is no clear research as to why some groups of people are affected more than others. Some factors have been identified to be a trigger for motion sickness, however.
Our brain gets signals from other body parts for actions. During motion, the brain might not be able to receive signals properly or interpret them. The messages sent by the inner ear might be different from messages sent by the eyes due to rapidly changing visuals. This leads to uneasy feelings, dizziness, or nausea.
Pregnant women and women undergoing periods are more prone to motion sickness and nausea than others. People suffering from migraines or disorders of the inner ear also tend to have symptoms of motion sickness.
Signs and symptoms of motion sickness
Various signs and symptoms of motion sickness are:¹
- Cold sweats
- Rapid breathing
- Pale skin
- Increased saliva concentration
- Irritated mood
- Inability to concentrate
Management and treatment
If you have symptoms of motion sickness, try following these tips or consult your GP. Not everyone experiences sickness during travel, but those who experience it can make some slight changes to ease the symptoms.1,3,4
- Sitting position: Face forward during travel to reduce the disruptions due to motion. According to experts, the best place to sit is the front passenger seat in a car, the window seat in a bus or train, the middle of a boat, and the wing section of an airplane
- Acupressure: There are acupressure wristbands available that can ease symptoms of motion sickness. Although some people claim that it helps, the efficiency of these bands is not adequately researched
- Ventilation: Try opening the windows to get fresh air in the vehicle. If there are air vents, face them toward you
- Breaks: Try taking frequent breaks during your trip, if possible. Get down from the vehicle and walk around a little bit
- Vision: Focus your vision on the road in a straight direction. Try not to look sideways or at screens for long periods
- Diet: Avoid eating very heavy or spicy meals just before travel. These might upset your stomach and aggravate the symptoms of motion sickness. Try to avoid alcohol or tobacco use before or during travel as well
- Herbs: Mint, ginger, and lavender are said to have a soothing effect on the mind. Try keeping these scents with you during travel. You can also try ginger or peppermint in the form of biscuits, tablets, or tea
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines are helpful in preventing motion sickness. They can come in tablet or syrup form. It is suggested to take these medications around 30 minutes or an hour prior to leaving. Read the label instructions carefully or speak to your pharmacist.
- Patches: Hyoscine hydrobromide belongs to the group of medicines called anticholinergics or antimuscarinics. These can ease symptoms of motion sickness. It comes in the form of tablets or patches. They work to control the inner ear and the brain. These are not supposed to be used by children below 10 years of age. Read the instructions carefully or speak to your pharmacist before buying. Brand names for it are Kwells, Joy-rides, Scopoderm, or Kwells Kids.
How common is motion sickness
Motion sickness affects one in three individuals. People AFAB, children, and Asians are found to be more prone to motion sickness than others.
How is motion sickness diagnosed?
If you suspect motion sickness, contact your GP. They will make a note of your symptoms and perform a physical exam of your eyes and ears.
How can I prevent motion sickness?
Motion sickness can be prevented by avoiding heavy or spicy meals before traveling, taking regular breaks, drinking plenty of water, or taking medications.
When should I call a doctor?
A little bit of nausea can be handled without help. But if vomiting does not stop even after these measures, or if symptoms persist after traveling, then it is a good idea to call a doctor.
Motion sickness is an unpleasant feeling that can make traveling frustrating. But it is not a life-threatening condition. Normal sickness can be managed by over-the-counter medication and precautions, such as watching what you eat the day before.
- Motion sickness: symptoms & treatment [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2023 Jan 14]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12782-motion-sickness
- Motion sickness: medlineplus genetics [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 14]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/motion-sickness/
- Motion sickness [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 14]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/motion-sickness/
- About hyoscine hydrobromide [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 14]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/hyoscine-hydrobromide/about-hyoscine-hydrobromide/
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