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If you've ever been sick to your stomach on a rocking boat or a bumpy airplane ride, you know the discomfort of motion sickness. It doesn't cause long-term problems, but it can make your life miserable, especially if you travel a lot.
Children from 5 to 12 years old, women, and older adults get motion sickness more than others do. It's rare in children younger than 2.
Motion sickness is sometimes called airsickness, seasickness, or carsickness.
Motion sickness can cause:
Symptoms will usually go away soon after the motion stops.
You get motion sickness when one part of your balance-sensing system (your inner ear, eyes, and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving, but the other parts don't. For example, if you are in the cabin of a moving ship, your inner ear may sense the motion of waves, but your eyes don't see any movement. This conflict between the senses causes motion sickness.
You may feel sick from the motion of cars, airplanes, trains, amusement park rides, or boats or ships. You could also get sick from video games, flight simulators, or looking through a microscope. In these cases, your eyes see motion, but your body doesn't sense it.
You can take medicine to prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. These include:
Some of these medicines require a prescription. Most work best if you take them before you travel.
These tips may help you feel better when you have motion sickness:
It's best to try to prevent motion sickness, because symptoms are hard to stop after they start. After symptoms start, you may feel better only after the motion stops.
These general tips may help you avoid motion sickness:
In a car
To avoid motion sickness when you travel by car:
In a plane
When you travel by airplane:
On a ship or boat
When you travel by ship or boat:
Many people try other methods of preventing motion sickness, such as taking powdered ginger capsules or wearing acupressure wristbands. There isn't much evidence that they help, but it's safe to try them.
Other Works ConsultedDick E (2015). Travel medicine. In ET Bope, RD Kellerman, eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2015, pp. 1164-1170. Philadelphia: Saunders.Jacobs ME, Hawley CG (2012). Safety and survival at sea. In PS Auerbach, ed., Wilderness Medicine, 6th ed., pp. 1666-1692. Philadelphia: Mosby.Lankau EW (2014). Motion sickness. In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ed., CDC Health Information for International Travel 2014: The Yellow Book. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/motion-sickness. Accessed April 2, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerBrian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Current as ofMay 4, 2017
Current as of: May 4, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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