Introduction 

Motion sickness is a general term for an unpleasant combination of symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, that can occur when you are travelling.

Motion sickness is also known as:

  • travel sickness
  • seasickness
  • car sickness
  • air sickness

In most cases, symptoms of motion sickness improve as your body adapts to the conditions causing the problem.

For example, if you have motion sickness on a cruise ship, your symptoms may improve after a couple of days. However, some people do not adapt and have symptoms until they leave the environment that is causing them.

Read more information about the symptoms of motion sickness.

When to seek medical advice

You only need to have motion sickness diagnosed if your symptoms continue after you stop travelling. If this happens, see your GP to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a viral infection of your inner ear. This is known as labyrinthitis.

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness is thought to occur when there is a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears, which help with balance, sense. Your brain receives a jumble of contrasting information, which is thought to bring on the symptoms of motion sickness.

It can occur when you are travelling by road, air, rail or sea. Less common causes of motion sickness include watching a computer game or film.

Read more information about the causes of motion sickness.

Treating motion sickness

Mild symptoms of motion sickness can usually be improved with self-care techniques, such as fixing your eyes on the horizon and distracting yourself by listening to music.

More serious symptoms of motion sickness can be treated with medication. Hyoscine is a medicine that is widely used to treat motion sickness and has a good track record.

Some people may also find complementary therapies can help, such as taking ginger supplements or wearing an acupressure wristband.

Read more information about how motion sickness is treated.

How common is motion sickness?

It is thought everyone can potentially get motion sickness, but some are more vulnerable than others.

For example, almost everyone on a ship in rough seas would be expected to have motion sickness. However, about 3 out of 10 people may also have symptoms of motion sickness regularly on journeys by road, sea or air.

Women are more likely to get motion sickness than men, particularly if pregnant or having their period. People affected by migraines may be more likely to experience motion sickness, and are also more likely to have a migraine at the same time as motion sickness.

Motion sickness is also more common in children 3 to 12 years of age. After this age, most teenagers grow out of motion sickness.

How to beat jet lag

Reduce the effects of jet lag, including advice on sleep patterns, stopovers and readjusting your body clock quickly

Page last reviewed: 03/12/2012

Next review due: 03/12/2014