Motion Sickness: Meaning, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

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Motion sickness, also known as travel sickness or kinetosis, is a common condition that occurs when individuals experience certain types of motion, such as travelling in a car, boat, or aeroplane. It is characterized by a range of symptoms that can be uncomfortable and distressing. This article provides an overview of motion sickness, including its meaning, causes, prevention strategies, and available treatment options.

Meaning of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness, or travel sickness, refers to the collection of symptoms that occur when the brain receives conflicting information from the body’s sensory systems regarding motion. It typically arises when there is a discrepancy between what the eyes perceive and what the inner ear senses in terms of movement. This sensory mismatch leads to various physical and psychological symptoms, which we will explore in detail.

Causes of Motion Sickness [1] [2]

Motion sickness occurs when there is a sensory mismatch between the visual and vestibular systems in the body. It is caused by conflicting sensory input, inner ear imbalance, sensory conflict, and individual susceptibility. These factors contribute to the onset of motion sickness during certain types of motion or travel.

Conflicting sensory input, such as reading while traveling, can trigger motion sickness. The eyes perceive a stationary environment, while the inner ear senses motion, leading to sensory conflict.

An inner ear imbalance, caused by rapid or irregular motion, can also result in motion sickness symptoms. Activities like flying or riding on amusement park rides can cause this imbalance.

Individual susceptibility varies, with women, children aged 2-12, and those with a history of migraines or headaches being more prone to motion sickness.

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness manifests through a range of symptoms that can vary among individuals. The most common symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, and fatigue. These symptoms typically occur when there is a sensory mismatch between the visual and vestibular systems in the body. The brain receives conflicting signals from these two systems, leading to a sense of imbalance and discomfort. Nausea is often the first symptom to appear and is accompanied by a feeling of queasiness in the stomach. This sensation may progress to vomiting in severe cases. Dizziness is another prevalent symptom, causing a spinning or lightheaded sensation. Sweating and fatigue are also common, as the body responds to the stress and discomfort of motion sickness. Other secondary symptoms may include headaches, increased salivation, rapid breathing, and a general feeling of malaise. 

These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, depending on factors such as the mode of transportation, the duration of travel, and individual susceptibility to motion sickness. It’s important to note that the symptoms of motion sickness can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, making travel and certain activities challenging. However, various strategies and treatments are available to alleviate these symptoms and improve comfort during travel [2].

Prevention and Management of Motion Sickness

motion sickness symptoms

Preventing and managing motion sickness involves several strategies to minimize symptoms and discomfort. Before embarking on a journey, individuals can choose a seat or position that provides the least amount of motion and offers a stable visual perspective, such as sitting near the front of a vehicle or selecting a window seat on an airplane. Adequate ventilation and fresh air circulation can also help alleviate symptoms. It is advisable to avoid strong odours and consume light meals or snacks before travel. During the journey, focusing on distant objects or the horizon rather than nearby objects can help stabilize the visual and vestibular systems. Over-the-counter medication can be taken to alleviate symptoms, and prescription medications like scopolamine patches are also available. Other approaches, such as using acupressure wristbands, implementing relaxation techniques, and practising distraction techniques, can provide relief. Consulting with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and guidance is recommended for an effective prevention and management plan [2].

Treatment Options for Motion Sickness

When motion sickness occurs, there are several treatment options available to alleviate the symptoms. These include medications such as antihistamines, scopolamine patches, and anti-nausea drugs. Additionally, natural remedies like ginger, acupressure wristbands, and relaxation techniques can provide relief from motion sickness symptoms [2].


Motion sickness is a common condition that can affect individuals during various types of motion or travel. By understanding the meaning, causes, prevention strategies, and treatment options for motion sickness, individuals can take proactive steps to manage and alleviate their symptoms. Whether through primary prevention measures, secondary prevention strategies, or treatment options, there are effective ways to cope with motion sickness and enjoy a more comfortable and pleasant travel experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) [1] [2]

  • What are the common triggers for motion sickness? 

Motion sickness can be triggered by various factors such as car rides, boat travel, air travel, amusement park rides, and virtual reality experiences.

  • Can motion sickness be prevented? 

Yes, there are preventive measures that can help reduce the risk of motion sickness. These include choosing a seat with minimal motion, focusing on a fixed point in the distance, and maintaining good ventilation.

  • Are there any natural remedies for motion sickness? 

Yes, natural remedies like ginger, peppermint, and acupressure wristbands have been found to alleviate motion sickness symptoms for some individuals. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness may vary.

  • Are there any medications available for motion sickness? 

Yes, there are over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help manage motion sickness symptoms. These include antihistamines, scopolamine patches, and anti-nausea drugs.

  • Can motion sickness affect anyone, regardless of age? 

Yes, motion sickness can affect people of all ages, including children and adults. However, susceptibility to motion sickness may vary among individuals.



Dr. Shankar Rao

Dr. Rao has achieved great success in his career, with 5 research projects and 4 books to his credit, as well as a Monograph. In addition to receiving the Bharat Scout & Guide Award from the President of India, Dr Rao has also won the Young Scientist Award from S.V. University, Tirupati.