Motion sickness

Motion sickness

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is a single term for the feeling of discomfort that can occur when using different modes of transportation. The term includes: seasickness, carsickness, and airsickness, all of which produce the same uncomfortable condition. If one is prone to carsickness, it is likely that one will also experience airsickness and seasickness more often, since the cause for all three is the same.

Children are typically more at risk of feeling uncomfortable while traveling by car, plane, or boat, than babies and adults; the same goes for women when compared to men. However, in general everybody can experience motion sickness. Some only require violent and unexpected movement to provoke an episode of motion sickness.


What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

The symptoms manifest when traveling by car, boat, or plane and include, among others:

  • Tiredness
  • Being quiet and withdrawn
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth, nausea, and eventual vomiting
  • Paleness
  • A tendency to sweat and eventual hyperventilation

The symptoms can persist for hours after the motions have stopped and one has left the mode of transportation. After a few hours, the symptoms will subside without any lingering discomfort.


What are the causes of motion sickness?

In the cerebellum, found at the back of the skull below the cerebrum, the centre of balance is located. This area receives information on movement from our sight, senses, and the balance organ in the inner ear. The balance organ in the inner ear is very sensitive towards rapid movements, but has difficulties informing the brain of the slow movements one is exposed to during transport - for example, when the car is turning, and you are sitting still. However, our sight is capable of processing and informing the brain of this type of movement. The opposite is also true, e.g. sitting in a cabin on a boat that is rocking back and forth. The balance organ can understand this type of motion, but the sight cannot. This results in mixed signals being transmitted to the brain, confusing our centre of balance. This confusion is believed to be the cause of motion sickness.


Which treatment options are available for motion sickness?

An individual’s sensitivity towards motions sickness will often lessen with age. Furthermore, one can reduce their susceptibility toward becoming ill at ease, simply be repeatedly traveling with the same mode of transportation. It is therefore possible to ‘train’ oneself not to get motion sickness. This is due to the centre of balance’s ability to learn that enables the brain to become accustomed to the unfamiliar movements and the accompanying signals. In this way, one avoids motion sickness, through repeated exposure.

It is also possible to prevent or sooth the symptoms, if one can get a seat with a clear view of the journey. This can for example be achieved by sitting by the window when traveling by car. Similarly, it can be hopeful to lie down, if one starts feeling ill at ease. While laying down, the centre of balance does not require as precise information, as when standing or sitting upright. The confusing signals from the inner ear are therefore less important. On the other hand, is it possible to exacerbate the symptoms by not paying attention to the motions; for example, by reading a book while traveling.

There is a selection of medicine, capable of preventing motion sickness or soothing the symptoms. However, they require one to ingest the medication prior to traveling. Antihistamines can have this effect, but also has a sedating effect on the person taking the drug. It is therefore inadvisable taking antihistamine if one is operating the mode of transport. Hyoscine is, likewise, effective against motion sickness but has a short-lived effect. It is possible to receive hyoscine through a band aid, placed behind the ear. Thereby the dose is absorbed slower and the effect lasts longer.

It only takes 2 minutes.
Do you want to be able to join research projects?
Free and non-binding · more than 65.000 members
Yes, sign me up!
Maybe later
Health Panel

Become a part of Health Panel

The goal of Health Panel is to improve health through research, but we need your help to do so. You can help by signing up for Health Panel and thereby possibly become a participant in research projects. We will only contact you if your health profile is consistent with a current research project. All research projects are pre-approved by the respective  Independent Ethics Committees (IEC) or Institutional Review Boards (IRB).

Create Health Profile