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 to combating the nauseous feeling you get and you may not need medication.

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

  • Be aware of the triggers and avoid them if possible.
  • 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 prescription and over-the-counter remedies that can ease the symptoms of motion sickness.

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 medicines 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. The evidence for ginger to treat motion sickness is less clear. 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, American Academy of Family Physicians

Canadian Resources:
College of Family Physicians of Canada

Acupuncture. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Updated September 10, 2012. Accessed November 8, 2012.

Dizziness and Motion Sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery website. Updated December 2010. Accessed November 8, 2012

Ginger. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: . Updated July 2012. Accessed November 8, 2012.

Ginger. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Updated April 2012. Accessed November 8, 2012.

Motion Sickness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed November 8, 2012.

Nausea and Vomiting in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated June 28, 2012. Accessed November 8, 2012.

Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated August 20, 2012. Accessed November 8, 2012.

White B. Ginger: an overview [review]. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:1689-2691.

Last Reviewed November 2012

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