Motion sickness 

Introduction 

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

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.

Page last reviewed: 03/12/2012

Next review due: 03/12/2014

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

KiranRai said on 07 April 2014

The term, Travel Sickness seems so simple and common but its really difficult to understand the mechanism. Yes, sometimes you might be able to avoid being sick on journey listening music and talking with people but that might not always be the same for the same person. Next day, doing the same thing can't keep you not being sick. And also the lentgh of journey may effects a lot. Sometimes, positive thinking and engaging your brain somewhere else, being happy of thinking something also does make little difference but those all things you must practice before getting started to sick, cuz once you started feeling sick neither you can engage yourself listening music nor talking or thinking something positive. If journey is short, you might get rid off it getting off the vehicle but if its long then you might be ended up vomitting and being really sick. Some people may get relief after vomitting but may not always be the same. Sometimes, it may go farther than you might have thought, you mqy feel sweating, shaking, feeling hot and cold even in the right temperature, you feel like dropping blood pressure and heart is shaking. Its really hard to tolerate so, if you are in ground you definitely may think of getting off the vehicle and yes after getting off the vehicle you get in contact with fresh air and the wide open areas may help you recovered instantly but sometimes it may take long and its really annoying. However, there should be strong conncetion between brain and travel sickness. One thing, if you are travelling in early morning then the last nights meal and sleep makes lots difference.

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ACLM36 said on 20 November 2013

With reference to the comment that listening to music may not be helpful I beg to differ. As a child my motion sickness was debilitating, I couldn't get to the end of our road without being sick and a three mile journey could mean being sick up to four times. When I was seven I saved up for a Walkman. How liberating it was, finally I actually enjoyed car journeys and being sick became rare. I'm now 36 and can still get travel sickness, although fortunately it is less severe now. When I start feeling queasy I put my iPod on and like magic the nausea is under control. It also helps on planes and trains so yes I think that listening to music is definitely something to try.

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CATS01 said on 01 September 2011

The statement::

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

would not be appropriate for someone still in a state of motion.

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Advice for people travelling abroad, including malaria, travel vaccinations, EHIC, travel insurance, DVT and jet lag