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Motion Sickness

(Air Sickness; Car Sickness; Sea Sickness)

Definition

Motion sickness is a feeling of sickness that happens with movement. It can also happen when a person looks at something that is moving, such as a movie or park ride.

Causes

The brain senses motion through signals from the ears, eyes, muscles, and joints. Motion sickness is when the eyes signal the brain that the body is still while the other parts of the body signal that it is in motion.
Central Nervous System
Central Nervous System
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Motion sickness is more common in women and children. It is also more common in people who have migraine headaches.

Symptoms

Problems may be:
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A pale face
  • Headache
  • Cold sweats
  • Lightheadedness

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Symptoms often go away soon after motion stops. Medicine that may ease symptoms include:
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines
  • Scopolamine

Prevention

These methods can lower the risk of motion sickness during travel:
  • Taking motion sickness medicine before any travel
  • Focusing on the skyline or an object that is far away
  • Not eating heavy meals before travel

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Motion sickness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/motion-sickness.htm. Updated June 24, 2019. Accessed April 9, 2020.
Motion sickness. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/motion-sickness/. Updated November 13, 2018. Accessed April 9, 2020.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/nausea-and-vomiting-in-adults . Updated March 30, 2018. Accessed April 9, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 04/09/2020
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