Motion sickness

Motion sickness is a common condition that can affect people when travelling by any form of transport, including car, train, boat and plane.

Anyone can get motion sickness, but some people are affected more than others. Infants and toddlers tend to be resistant to motion sickness, while children aged around 2–12 years are most susceptible.

Symptoms of motion sickness

The amount of motion sickness experienced depends on the length of exposure to, and severity of, abnormal movement.

Symptoms include:

  • a feeling of uneasiness;
  • sweating;
  • nausea;
  • vomiting; and
  • dizziness.

Treatment

Certain techniques and medicines can be used to help prevent and treat motion sickness.

The following measures may help with motion sickness.

  • Eat a light snack before travelling. Avoid large, greasy or spicy meals and avoid alcohol.
  • If possible, be the driver or sit in the front seat when travelling by car. When travelling by bus, sit as close to the front as possible. When travelling by train, choose a window seat facing forwards. If flying, sit over the front edge of the aeroplane wing – the ride tends to be less bumpy. A cabin at the front or middle of a ship, near the waterline, is best.
  • Try not to move your head around too much – it may help to use pillows or a headrest.
  • Look out the window and focus on the horizon or a distant stationary object. If you can’t see outside, close your eyes.
  • Keep cool – open the window or use air conditioning.
  • Avoid reading while travelling.
  • Reclining in your seat or lying down can help.

Medicines

There are medicines available to help with motion sickness. Medicines should be taken before travelling, because they are more effective at preventing symptoms than treating symptoms after they have developed. Medicines used to treat motion sickness may cause drowsiness.

Available medicines include:

  • promethazine (e.g. Avomine, Allersoothe) - a type of antihistamine;
  • hyoscine hydrobromide (e.g. Kwells, Travacalm HO);
  • a combination medicine containing dimenhydrinate, hyoscine hydrobromide and caffeine (Travacalm Original).

You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist whether medicines are suitable for you or your child before taking them.

Last Reviewed: 20 December 2012
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References

1. Motion sickness (revised June 2011). In: eTG complete. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2012 Nov. http://online.tg.org.au/complete/ (accessed Feb 2013).
2. MayoClinic.com. Motion sickness: first aid (updated 15 Oct 2011). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-motion-sickness/HQ01099 (accessed Feb 2013).
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Traveller’s Health: Motion sickness (updated 1 Jul 2011). http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/motion-sickness.htm (accessed Feb 2013).
4. Graudins LV. Preventing motion sickness in children. Aust Prescr 2009;32:61-3. http://www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/32/3/61/3/
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