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Quick Facts

Motion Sickness


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is feeling dizzy or sick to your stomach because you're moving or watching something move.

  • Motion sickness is a common problem

  • You feel sick to your stomach and dizzy, and you may throw up

  • You slowly start to feel better after the movement stops

  • Doctors can give you medicine to treat severe motion sickness

What causes motion sickness?

Almost everyone traveling on a boat in rough water gets motion sickness. Motion sickness on a boat is called sea sickness. Some people get motion sickness in a car or airplane. Motion sickness is more likely when a vehicle swerves a lot. For example, people who don't get motion sickness on a passenger airplane might get sick riding in a stunt plane.

You can also get motion sickness while not moving. For example, you may get motion sickness when you're playing a video game or watching an action scene in a 3D movie.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

The main symptom of motion sickness is:

  • Feeling like you want to throw up (nausea)

The nausea can be very bad. Most people are miserable. Often you throw up. Even if you do, the nausea doesn't go away.

Other symptoms you might have are:

  • Dizziness

  • Cold sweat

  • Extra spit in your mouth

After motion sickness begins, it usually doesn't start getting better until you stop moving. But, most people who are on a boat for a long trip feel better a few days into the trip when they get used to being on the boat, but some people feel seasick for several days. After people work on boats or airplanes for a while, they rarely get motion sickness.

How do doctors prevent and treat motion sickness?

Doctors recommend the same things to prevent and treat motion sickness. It's easier to prevent motion sickness than to treat it after it starts.

To help prevent and treat mild motion sickness:

  • Keep looking forward and keep your eyes fixed on something in the distance

  • Keep your head and body as still as possible

  • Sit where you’ll feel the least motion, such as the front seat of a car, the middle of a ship close to water level, or over the wings of an airplane

  • Eat small, low-fat, bland meals

  • Get some fresh air

  • Don’t read while traveling

  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol before traveling

If you get bad motion sickness, your doctor may have you take medicine before you travel. Doctors use the same medicines after motion sickness starts. There are several different kinds of pills you can take, as well as a patch you stick on behind your ear. You can buy most of the pills without a prescription. Pills for motion sickness include:

  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®)

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)

  • Meclizine

You'll need a prescription for the patch. If you're vomiting a lot, doctors may give you a prescription medicine to help with your nausea.

You may get motion sickness less often over time. Your body may adjust on a long trip.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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