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Travel health

09 July 2019

Motion Sickness Symptoms, Medecines, Causes

What is motion sickness?


Motion sickness is a feeling of nausea caused by movement. This can happen when traveling by car, bus, train, plane or boat (for example: for a cruise in the Caribbean). Amusement park rides and virtual reality experiences can also trigger this uncomfortable feeling.

Sometimes the mere movement of other people or objects can trigger this state. Motion sickness is not life threatening. However, suffering from motion sickness can ruin your life while traveling. Organizing in advance can reduce and prevent the effects of motion sickness in a moving vehicle.

Other triggers for motion sickness include:

  • be in the back of a car without being able to see the horizon
  • read in a car
  • do not have enough fresh air in the car

Motion sickness is common among the elderly, pregnant women and children aged 5 to 12 years.

In addition, it is common in people with migraine headaches. It can also be genetic. Once the movement stops, vertigo ceases. Little by little, we feel better.

See our article on altitude sickness

Symptoms of motion sickness


Symptoms can start without any warning. They can get worse quickly. You may feel nauseated and dizzy.

Other symptoms include:

  • vomitings
  • pale skin
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • cold sweats
  • dizziness
  • irritability.
  • increased saliva

What causes motion sickness?


Motion sickness is an imbalance between what you see and how you feel.

Indeed, you see that the car is in motion and that it advances, but your body remains motionless. It is this imbalance that causes motion sickness and gives you nausea.

How to diagnose motion sickness?


Do you notice nausea when traveling? If so, consult a professional health travel specialist if you experience motion sickness multiple times. This professional (nurse) will perform a physical examination. He or she will look at your ears and your eyes.

If you see your doctor, he will ask you questions about your medical history before recommending treatment.


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Can we prevent or avoid motion sickness?


If you know that you have vertigo when traveling: Plan ahead!

These tips can help you prevent or relieve symptoms:

  • Take the seasickness medicine one or two hours before traveling.
  • A simple method to prevent motion sickness is to chew gum.
  • Choose the right seat : The seat next to the driver is the best of the car
  • Check for good ventilation and fresh air
  1.   Use the air conditioner or lower the window in a car.
  2.   Direct the vent to you on an airplane.
  3.   Sit near a window when you are in a covered boat.
  • Avoid things you can not change. For example, do not travel in an outboard. Waves and tremors can make you nauseous. If you can not avoid it, take the medicine in advance.
  • Do not read when traveling by car, plane or boat.
  • It is advisable to look out the window of the moving vehicle, on the horizon and in the direction of travel
  • Try to sleep when you feel nauseated.
  • Avoid heavy meals before or during the trip. Instead, eat small portions of simple food. Do not eat fatty, spicy or acidic foods before or during the trip.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid smells that cause nausea (if you can). This includes cigarette smoke.

Talk to your healthcare professional about different therapies.

If your symptoms last more than a few days, consult your doctor


How to cure motion sickness?


The most common drugs used to treat motion sickness are (diphenhydramine) Benadryl® , Meclizine (BONAMINE®) and Scopolamine.

The Scopolamine relieves nausea and vomiting and does not cause drowsiness. A skin patch works very well. As its action is sustainable, it is very useful for cruises and long trips by plane. For Adutl only


Antihistamines (Benadryl®) are useful. However, these usually cause drowsiness. Non-sleepy antihistamines are not effective in treating or preventing motion sickness. Another type of medicine exists: antiemetics. These are used to treat nausea and vomiting.

Some of these medications are available by prescription. Some are over-the-counter. Talk to your healthcare professional to determine what is best for you. These drugs work best when taken before traveling.

Once nausea starts, eat a few simple cookies and drink some water.


Living with motion sickness


Getting organized in advance is the best advice for motion sickness.

If the vertigo is mild, the drugs will be effective.

If you know that you feel dizzy, plan your diet, your rest, the things to avoid and your choice of seat.


Questions to ask health care professionals


  • Can the medication help fight motion sickness after the onset of symptoms?
  • Is motion sickness a sign of a more serious health problem?
  • Can I take anti-vertigo medication if I am pregnant or breast-feeding?
  • Is it safe to take seasickness medications with other medications?


Contact a travel health professional, member of Travel Health Tips


This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out if this information is of interest to you and to have more information on this topic.


Are you a professional in Travel Health?
Find all the information on international health with the
Professional Package and Corporate Package

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When traveling, regardless of your destination or physical condition, a consultation with a trained health professional is expected at least 6 weeks before your departure.

Christine Dumontet RN 

President Dumontet CSV and Founder of Travel Health Assist