Health Topics

Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness

Tips to Prevent Motion Sickness

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

The symptoms of motion sickness include dizziness, sweating, a general feeling of discomfort and not feeling well, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can strike suddenly and progress from simply not feeling well to a cold sweat, to dizziness, and then vomiting.

What can I do to prevent or minimize motion sickness?

If you know you have motion sickness or might be prone to it, consider this advice:

  • On a ship: When making your reservations, choose a cabin in the middle of the ship and near the waterline. When on board, go up on deck and focus on the horizon.
  • In an airplane: Request a window seat and look out the window. A seat over the front edge of the wing is the most preferable spot (the degree of motion is the lowest here). Direct the air vent to blow cool air on your face.
  • On a train: Always face forward and sit near a window.
  • In a vehicle: Sit in the front seat; if you are the passenger, look at the scenery in the distance. For some people, driving the vehicle (rather than being a passenger) is an instant remedy.

Other tips to help with motion sickness:

  • Reading: If you are prone to motion sickness, don’t read in moving vehicles.
  • Get plenty of rest: Get a good night’s sleep the evening before you travel. Being overtired can make you more susceptible to motion sickness.
  • Avoid greasy or acidic foods: Avoid heavy, greasy, and acidic foods in the hours before you travel. These types of foods – such as coffee, orange juice/grapefruit juice, bacon, sausage, pancakes – are slow to digest, and in the case of coffee, can speed up dehydration. Better choices include breads, cereals, grains, milk, water, apple juice, apples, or bananas. Do not skip eating but also do not overeat.
  • Drink plenty of water and drink it often.
  • Do not drink large amounts of alcohol the evening before you travel: Alcohol speeds up dehydration and generally lowers your body’s resistance to motion sickness, if you are prone to it.
  • Stand if you feel queasy: Stand up, if you can, and look out over the horizon. Despite what you might think, sitting or lying down actually may make you feel worse.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid others who smoke.
  • Eat dry crackers: Dry crackers may help settle a queasy stomach.
  • Use the seat head rest. Lean your head against the back of the seat or head rest when traveling in vehicles with seats.
  • Avoid others who have become nauseous with motion sickness. Seeing and smelling others who have motion sickness may cause you to become sick.

How is motion sickness treated?

Motion sickness can be treated with over-the-counter and prescription drug products.

Over-the-counter products

Antihistamines are commonly used both to prevent and treat motion sickness. Antihistamines to consider for this purpose include meclizine (Antivert, Bonine), dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). The side effect of these medications is drowsiness, though meclizine is less sedating.

Prescription products

The antiemetic drug promethazine (Phenergan) is one drug your doctor may wish to prescribe. Scopolamine oral pills and skin patch (Transderm Scop) is another option. The patch formulation is applied to the skin area behind the ear and can help prevent motion sickness for up to 3 days. Scopolamine may create an annoying dry mouth side effect. Certain patients with glaucoma and other health problems should not use this drug. Be sure to tell your doctor of your existing health problems so that he or she can determine which drug is best suited for you.

Of the drug products mentioned above, only dimenhydrinate and diphenhydramine are recommended for use in children.

Nonpharmaceutical remedies

Numerous non-drug options have been promoted as being helpful in relieving or preventing motion sickness. In most cases, the proof supporting these products’ use for motion sickness is not as rigorous as that used to approve drugs. However, you may want to try one of these options. Ginger, in pills, tablets, or powder, is available in many local herb or health food stores. Eating peppermint has been said to help by having a calming quality. Acupressure wristbands may prevent the feeling of nausea. Anecdotal reports suggest that sticking your feet in ice water might help reduce queasiness.