Healthy You - Every Day

All About Motion Sickness

If you know, you know: We've got advice to help you weather the ride

Motion sickness - questions and answers

You’re in a car. Or you’re on a boat, a train or a plane.

One minute, you’re riding peacefully. The next minute, you’re lunging for the nearest bin or bag so you can … well, you get the picture.

There’s one thing you know for sure about motion sickness: It’s no fun. But you may have a few other questions about it. Nurse practitioner Tammy Merrifield, CRNP, DNP, with LVPG Internal Medicine–Carbon, provides answers for you.

What does motion sickness feel like?

Unsurprisingly, it feels a whole lot like getting sick. This can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweat
  • Pale skin

Why does motion sickness happen?

In plain English, it’s an imbalance between what you see and what you feel. In other words, you see that you’re moving, but your body feels like it’s sitting still.

In slightly more technical language, there’s a neural disconnection between your internal systems, and your inner ear – which helps control your balance – gets confused.

What triggers it?

Essentially, motion sickness is triggered by movement. But certain things that happen while you’re in motion can trigger that unique sick feeling:

  • Looking at other people or things that are moving
  • Riding in the back seat of a car
  • Reading while in motion
  • Not getting enough air

Who gets motion sickness?

Whether you get motion sickness depends on a lot of factors. It may be genetic, but some people might be more susceptible, including pregnant people, people who have a history of migraines and children ages 2 to 12. 

How can you put the brakes on motion sickness?

Try these techniques to prevent, avoid or reduce symptoms of motion sickness:

  • Take motion sickness medicine, such as Benadryl, Dramamine or scopolamine, an hour or two before you travel.
  • Choose your seat wisely. In cars, the best seat tends to be the front passenger. Try to make sure you’re facing forward and you can see the horizon.
  • Drink lots of water and stay away from alcohol.
  • Avoid reading.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Suck on a flavored lozenge, such as ginger.

Should you get checked out?

If you get motion sickness often, talk with your doctor or clinician. They can examine you and recommend a treatment.

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