Motion Sickness (cont.)

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How is motion sickness treated?

Antihistamine medications are commonly used in the prevention and treatment of motion sickness. These medications seem to prevent and treat the nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by motion sickness by reducing the stimulation of the inner ear. Examples of antihistamines used for this purpose include meclizine (Bonine, Antivert, Dramamine) and dimenhydramine (Dramamine). Another class of medications (belladonna, and anticholinergic drug) used to prevent motion sickness is represented by the scopolamine skin patch (Transderm Scop). This medicated skin patch is applied behind the ear at least four hours in advance of the motion activity. The medication is slowly absorbed directly through the underlying skin and into the body.

When used specifically to prevent motion sickness and regardless of the type of medication, these medicines generally are most effective when administered well before the motion activity takes place.

When should I see a doctor for motion sickness?

Most cases of motion sickness are mild and self-treatable. However, very severe cases and those that become progressively worse deserve the attention and care of a physician with special skill in diseases of the ear, balance (equilibrium), and the nervous system. Scopolamine requires a prescription.

What remedies can be taken to prevent or minimize motion sickness?

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If you know you are prone to motion sickness or if you are suffering from it, we recommend the following:

  1. Always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body and inner ears feel.
    • In a car, sit in the front seat and look at the distant scenery.
    • On a boat, go up on the deck and watch the motion of the horizon.
    • In an airplane, sit by the window and look outside.
    • Also, in a plane, choose a seat over the wings where the motion is minimized.
  1. Do not read while traveling if you are subject to motion sickness, and do not sit in a seat facing backward.
  1. Do not watch or talk to another traveler who is having motion sickness.
  1. Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods that do not agree with you (immediately before and during your travel). Medical research has not yet investigated the effectiveness of popular folk remedies such as "soda crackers and 7 Up" or "cola syrup over ice." 
  1. Ginger has been studied in the treatment of motion sickness; however, it is not yet clear how effective it is.
  1. Take one of the varieties of motion sickness medicines before your travel begins, as recommended by your physician.

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery

REFERENCES: Dizziness, Vertigo, and Imbalance.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/16/2014

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