How To Keep Motion Sickness at Bay
En Español (Spanish Version)

If half the fun is getting there, then do not let motion sickness stand in your way. In today's world, we travel by land, water, and air. Luckily, motion sickness, which can make you feel sick to your stomach (nausea) is mild and treatable in most cases. If you have travel in your future, then your best defense is to plan ahead.

Causes of Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is not a disorder of the stomach, but a disorder of the inner ear, the body's balance system. Our bodies keep balance in check through a complex mix of signals involving the eyes, ears, and brain. When the balance system sends conflicting information to the brain, it gets confused. This confusion leads to the unpleasant symptoms of motion sickness.

There are some tricks you can use to combat the nauseous feeling you get, which may help you avoid using medication.

Preventing Motion Sickness
Prevention should be the first strategy. Try to avoid situations that may trigger motion sickness. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try lying on your back, looking at the horizon, or closing your eyes. This might reduce the conflicting messages your brain is receiving about movement.
  • Do not read while traveling.
  • Do not sit in the rear seat.
  • Breathe fresh air, if possible.
  • Avoid food that might not agree with you.
  • Sit in a forward-facing seat.
If these suggestions are not possible or do not help, there are some over-the-counter and prescription remedies that can ease your symptoms.

Treating Motion Sickness
The drug scopolamine is available by prescription and comes in either pill form or as a small patch worn behind the ear. Over-the-counter antihistimines include dimenhydrinate and meclizine. Keep in mind that these drugs will suppress the nausea and queasiness of motion sickness, but may also cause drowsiness. Read the label and be aware of any side effects that will affect your ability to drive safely.

Sometimes reducing the sense of nausea is enough to make you feel more comfortable. If you do not want to take or cannot take medication, try something with ginger. Ginger in small doses has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting, especially in pregnant women. However, the evidence for ginger to treat motion sickness is inconsistent. Ginger comes in many forms, and can be found in tea, ginger ale, or bread. It also comes in pill form, so it can be taken like any other medication.

If you take blood thinners (warfarin, aspirin, or others), ginger may increase the risk of bleeding, so consult your doctor or find another remedy.

Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are procedures that use needles or pressure points on your body. When stimulated, the body reacts. The value of these treatments is still being investigated in a variety of health issues. People with motion sickness symptoms like nausea or vomiting have mixed results. Consider this as an option if other treatments fail.

Motion sickness is very common. If you plan ahead before you travel, you may avoid an unpleasant trip.

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

Canadian Resources:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada

Acupuncture. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: Updated January 9, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Updated December 2010. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Ginger. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: Updated September 18, 2014. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Ginger. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Updated November 26, 2012. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Motion sickness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Updated August 1, 2013. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 29, 2014. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 28, 2014. Accessed October 23, 2014.

White B. Ginger: An overview. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:1689-1691.

Last Reviewed October 2014

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