Motion Sickness FAQs

On November 22, 2012 · 0 Comments

Why this page? Personal interest. I suffer from sea sickness and use Maroon Bush Tea to help solve the problem. 

Topics Snapshot:

* Trivia Box

* What makes us Motion sick?

* Can I get used to motion that usually makes me sick?

* What can you DO to avoid motion sickness?

* Will Wrist Bands help?

* Will Ginger help?

* What Medications can I take?

* Motion Sickness Medications & Side Effects

Trivia Box

Sea Sick or What?

Nausea is a Latin word literally meaning "seasickness". It comes from the Greek word "Nausia" meaning "ship sickness". The term "motion sickness" was first used in 1881 to describe the condition as it includes car, coach, train, swing, sea, and air sickness. Astronauts can also experience motion sickness.

Who will Suffer?

90% of the population will be susceptible to motion sickness to some degree, depending on the severity of the motion. Motion sickness tends to be most severe between ages 4 and 12 years, peaking by age 10 -12. People may outgrow childhood motion sickness, but may continue to be susceptible as adults. Repeated exposure may improve tolerance, (habituation) but this is not guaranteed.

Is Motion Sickness becoming more common?

Yes. The introduction of inertial compensation car and train suspension systems has increased the percentage of passengers who will experience motion sickness. By tilting into a curve, tilting trains remain upright relative to inertia. This gives a faster, smoother ride than conventional trains, but up to one third of passengers doing normal activities on tilting trains become sick, whereas motion sickness is rare on conventional trains.

Virtual reality environments are now more common and can also significantly increase the risk of provoking motion sickness.

What about Animals?

Humans are not alone in this problem. Motion sickness can affect many species of animals. For example, cats, dogs, monkeys, sheep, cows, horses, seals, and even fish if transported in a tank on a boat over rough water.

What makes us Motion sick?

Motion sickness occurs when the eyes, skin, muscles, and the balance center of the inner ear send conflicting information to the brain. For example, a child sitting in the back seat of a moving vehicle who cannot look out the window to view the passing scenery will experience conflicting signals. Their inner ears and skin tell the brain that they are moving forward, but their eyes and muscles send signals to the brain that they are sitting still. Mixed messages.

The end result may be dizziness, nausea and even vomiting. The severity will depend the magnitude of the motion itself, a persons susceptibility to the effects of the conflicting information, and their position relative to the motion. There is a wide variability in individual susceptibility to motion sickness. A lucky 10% or so of individuals will never develop motion sickness no matter how severe the motion is.

The degree, or speed of motion also plays a role in inducing motion sickness. The effects of motion seem to be at their worst at around 0.2 hz. For example, if you sit on a swivel chair and turn it slowly around so that it takes 5 seconds to complete a turn, that is 0.2 hz speed. Someone who gets dizzy and nauseated on a rocking boat will feel the worst effects if the rocking is similar to that speed or action.

How does the Coriolis effect of spinning and angular motion make nausea worse?

Imagine a swivel chair placed in a round room with vertical stripes on the walls. If you place a person on the chair and spin them around, they will experience moderate nausea. However, if you have them place their head at an angle, and repeat the exercise, they will experience severe nausea.

This is the Coriolis effect, and is related to the bodies attempt to make sense of vertical and horizontal stimuli. This type of motion response can effect someone in a moving vehicle. Acceleration of a moving car can produce angular acceleration of a passengers head. This can set up a conflict in information between a subjectively experienced "vertical", how the mind thinks it is in relation to vertical, and the sensed vertical as determined by the body on the basis of incoming sensory information from the skin and sense of touch. This Coriolis effect or mismatch of information can increase nausea or dizziness.

Can I get used to motion that usually makes me sick?

Yes, but it is not guaranteed. This is called “habituation” and refers to your bodies ability to get used to the effects of a particular kind of motion. Infrequent exposure does not build habituation. Some anti motion sickness drugs reduce ability to get used to motion. For example, drugs using scopolamine (see below) may reduce or hinder habituation, so if you want to get over being motion sick choose a formulation that does not get in the way of doing so. Habituation is not permanent and requires frequent exposure, and if you stop exposure to that form of motion, after time you may become susceptible again. Habituation is also not “transferable”. Habituation to motion on a cruise may not stop you getting motion sick in a car or on an airplane.

Habituation is linked to your brain learning and remembering to associate new motions and signals. Scopolamine may also inhibit your memory of external events experienced whilst using the drug. This may be through less attention to detail during use, or reduced recall ability of events experienced while using the drug. Scopolamine is recognized as having dementia like effects, and has even been used to test anti dementia drugs by inducing dementia with scopolamine and then seeing if the trial drugs will overcome its influence. Scopolamine is used in Travacalm, see below.

What can you DO to avoid motion sickness?

The problem with solutions that depend on you is they can be distracting, tiring and even all consuming. It can literally be hard work to maintain the mental focus needed to quell the rising symptoms of motion sickness.


Controlled regular breathing has been shown to significantly increase motion tolerance. It can be approximately half as effective as standard anti-motion-sickness drugs but rapid to implement and free of side effects. The mechanism is uncertain but may involve activation of the known inhibitory reflex between respiration and vomiting.


Anecdotal evidence suggests modification of diet may reduce susceptibility to motion sickness. Avoid junk foods, and rich fatty foods, and eat lightly at least 90 minutes before the trip. Favor protein-rich foods as these may help inhibit motion sickness. Drink plenty of water during travel to avoid dehydration.

In the Car

In a car or vehicle. Ensure adequate ventilation. A stuffy car contributes to motion sickness. If possible sit in the front seat. The ideal is to have the center of your view "stationary", and the outer edges showing the movement. This is easily achieved by looking forwards at the center of the view ahead when you are in the front. This is more difficult when in the back seat because the side view has no point without motion. It is all passing by you. The best you can do in this situation is to keep your head as vertical as you can (remember the coriolis effect), and focus on the parts of the view that are moving least.


For children who are unable to see out the window it is more difficult. Keeping their heads upright is of value. Also, even though reading is generally a negative in the back seat, the use of coloring books or similar can be helpful. This is because doing activities which focus the mind and hands can take the attention of the brain away from the conflicting sensory data and reduce its effects. So, do throw those colored pencils and coloring books in!

On the Boat

When on a boat, find the lowest level where you can still see ahead. Try to stay to the middle of the boat, face the front, and try to keep eye contact with the horizon. You may also find it better to lie on your back with face upwards, keeping your head and body as still as you can.

On the Cruise

On a cruise ship, choose a cabin in the middle of the ship near the waterline. This is the point where the motion is at its least. When on deck employ the tips above for on the boat.

On the Airplane

On an airplane the place with the least motion is a window seat over the wings. Try for a window where you can watch the horizon if it is light. Avoid reading, but you may find it of value to focus on a task like writing or mathematical calculations, as this helps focus attention and motor skills to distract from the motion of the plane.

On the Train

On inertia compensated trains, the effect of motion is reduced dramatically by obscuring the view of the landscape, which swings upwards and downwards as the train negotiates bends. It also helps to minimize head movement

Will wrist bands help?

Maybe not. There are elastic and strap type bands available. Elastic acupressure wristbands like the Sea Band produce significantly higher pressures than tape type bands. Some research suggests that either types of band can be beneficial in relieving symptoms in over 85% of users. However, the trials are very limited in scope, not directly applicable, and are far from conclusive. Mythbusters put bands to the test and gave it them a fail. One wonders how much role the placebo effect is playing in the experience of people who claim success with the bands. Some claim acupuncture can be effective against motion sickness, however well controlled trials appear to find no conclusive evidence for this.

Will Ginger based products help?

There are mixed reviews on ginger. No trials to date have been able to demonstrate a clear answer on its effectiveness. Success with ginger appears to be a very personal and subjective thing. If it works for you be grateful, but recognize it may not for the next person. The forms of ginger treatment you can buy are probably no more effective than a bottle or can of ginger beer, so spend wisely according to your preference.

What Medications can I take?

There are three basic drug groups that are effective in preventing or reducing motion sickness:  Scopolamine, Antihistaminics, and Amphetamine . The range of choice in prescription, pharmacy,  or supermarket is essentially a choice of brand name, and small changes in formulation for use. The differences come down to how long the effect will last, the amount of drowsiness caused, and the side effects one is willing to accept or trying to avoid.

The best of these treatments, whatever their drug base, may only provide between 50% and 70% effectiveness in eliminating the effects of motion sickness.

 Comparison Motion Sickness Medications & Side Effects

Drug Name or Base

Effectiveness, Suitability Duration

Possible Side Effects

When To Avoid

Scopolamine Patch
Prescription Only

Scopolamine comes from the nightshade plant family. As a receptor blocking drug, it blocks the chemical transmitters that cause the symptoms of motion sickness. It is probably the most effective agent available for motion sickness, although it is relatively short-acting, and is less effective once sickness has onset. The patch is placed on the skin behind the ear about 4 hours before effect is required. Each patch is effective for 3 days. Scopolamine is the least sedating of current medications.

Dry mouth Constipation Confusion Dizziness Rash Difficulty urinating. Sedatives may also increase drowsiness Prolonged use may cause significant side effects of vomiting and nausea Reduced observation skills and blunted recall memory. Dementia like effects

Avoid scopolamine if you have a history of heart, liver, or kidney disease Glaucoma Difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate Breathing difficulties Are pregnant or breast feeding. Using alcohol, tranquilizers, and other drugs If you have early signs of dementia or memory loss

Hyoscine hydrobromide eg. TravaCalm

Hyoscine hydrobromide, also known as scopolamine. As above, it is perhaps the most effective agent available for motion sickness, although relatively short-acting. It is less effective once sickness has onset.

Drowsiness (not TravaCalm Natural) Dizziness Headache Blurred vision Tinnitus In-coordination Palpitations Low blood presure Dry mouth Lassitude Excitement Nausea Demensia like effects

If you have known allergy to active ingredients of Travacalm HO, hyoscine hydrobromide If you are lactose intolerant Avoid drinking alcohol or other medications that may increase the sedating effects of Travacalm If you have early signs of dementia, or memory loss

Promethazine (Phenergan )

Used as an anti-histamine, sedative, and anti-nausea. Anti histamines are potentially more effective after the onset of nausea than scopolamine. Phenergan is the longest acting and has the greatest sedating effect. This makes it very useful for children on long journeys, particularly at night.

Confusion in the elderly
Drowsiness Dizziness Fatigue More rarely vertigo Dry mouth Respiratory Constipation Chest Discomfort/Pressure. Short temper/Irritability
Rare side effects: Seizures Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

If you have severe asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problems If you are allergic to promethazine or other phenothiazines Caution where you must be awake and alert Alcohol, can increase some side effects of Phenergan If you have early signs of dementia or memory loss .

Anti histamines utilizing dimenhydrinate.

This can be effective for short trips. If you are going on a long trip, the prescription drug scopolamine may be more helpful. Anti histamines are marketed under a range of names. For example, in the USA as Dramamine, Driminate, or Gravol. Anti histamines are the only motion sickness drugs recommended for children.

Drowsiness or dizziness Restlessness Excitation Nervousness Insomnia Blurred or double vision Dry mouth, nose, or throat Decreased appetite Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Difficulty urinating An irregular or fast heartbeat.

If you have kidney or liver disease An enlarged prostate Difficulty urinating Bladder problems Glaucoma Asthma An irregular heartbeat or any other type of heart disease. Use caution when you need to be awake and alert If you have early signs of dementia, or memory loss .

intranasal scopolamine

NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Epiomed Therapeutics Inc. of Irvine, Calififornia have signed an agreement to develop and commercialize a NASA-crafted, fast-acting nasal spray to fight motion sickness. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form.

Yet to undergo clinical trials, it is hoped this product may come to market by 2015. Initial tests performed on a gel version in NASA's Human Disorientation Device enabled test subjects to outperform those on other medications by 20%


Once motion sickness has begun it reduces the ability of the stomach to absorb medication. This is why the majority of motion sickness medications need to be taken prior to departure or the onset of motion sickness. Other methods of application, such as patches, overcome this problem.



Disclaimer: The information on this site is intended as a guide only and not to be relied upon as medical advice in any form or manner.

Copyright:    November 2012


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