What causes it?

You’re excited because the time for your cruise vacation has finally arrived! You board the ship and it pulls out of port. However, within a very short time, you notice that you don’t feel so good and think you might get throw up. Are you experiencing motion sickness? What causes it to happen? How is it treated? Can you prevent it?

0715   Motion Sickness TNDefinition

Motion sickness is sometimes called seasickness and is caused when your brain receives conflicting signals from your inner ear, eyes, skin receptors and muscle/joint sensors in relation to motion and your body’s position in space. These inputs help you maintain your equilibrium and balance. So, if they aren’t working together as they should, then it can result in you feeling off balance and sick. Symptoms of motion sickness are dizziness, sweating, nausea and vomiting. They usually come on quickly and progress rapidly from not feeling well to vomiting. Despite also being called seasickness, it can occur with any type of travel, such as ship, plane, train, bus or car. It is more common for women, children between the ages 2 -12 and those who suffer from migraines.

TreatmentFast Facts Motion Sickness

There are several ways to treat motion sickness. Many people try over-the-counter products, such as dimenhydrinate, diphenhydramine and meclizine. These are all antihistamines and work by inhibiting the effects of the vestibular system, which is the part of your inner ear that helps control balance. The only problem with these antihistamines is that they can cause drowsiness. Meclizine is least likely to produce this effect. Unfortunately, the non-sedating antihistamines, like fexofenadine, don’t work in treating motion sickness. For children, the only recommend medication is dimenhydrinate or diphenhydramine.

If you know that you are prone to motion sickness, you can speak to your doctor because they can prescribe medication that can help. Scopolamine comes in pills or a patch and is very effective. The nice thing about the patch is that it’s placed behind your ear and can be left on for three days. This means that you’ll get the benefit of it for a longer period of time. Individuals with certain health conditions, like glaucoma, shouldn’t use scopolamine. So, be sure to talk to your doctor before using it. Some people also try using natural remedies to help relieve motion sickness. One method is to use lavender or ginger as aromatherapy. Another method is to eat ginger or peppermint to help calm your stomach.


There are several things that you can do to try to prevent motion sickness besides taking medicine. If you’re on a ship, select a cabin that is near the waterline and middle of the ship. There is less movement in this part of the ship. When on board, be sure to focus on the horizon. If you’re in a plane, sit near the window and open the vent so it’s blowing the air on your face. Also, try to get a seat that is over the front edge of the wing. Similar to the middle of a ship, there is less movement in this part of the plane. If you’re riding on a train, select a window seat that is facing forward. If you’re in a car, sit in the front passenger seat and look out the window. Some individuals actually have less motion sickness if they are driving the car rather than being a passenger. Some other tips for the car include not reading while riding and put your head on the head rest to help decrease the amount your head moves. In any of the scenarios, don’t lie down because this can actually make you feel worse. The night before you do any traveling there are several important things you should do. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep to avoid feeling overtired, which can make you prone to motion sickness. Don’t eat greasy/acidic foods or drink large amounts of alcohol because this slows your digestion process down and you can end up dehydrated. Both of these can contribute to motion sickness. A key thing to do is to drink plenty of water and eat dry crackers if you feel queasy.

Motion sickness isn’t a pleasant experience, but there are ways to manage it. If you have any questions or concerns about motion sickness, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit MedlinePlus’ motion sickness page at https://medlineplus.gov/motionsickness.html