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Motion sickness

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Motion sickness is also known as travel sickness, car sickness or sea sickness.
  • If you have motion sickness, you are likely to have nausea and may vomit and feel clammy.
  • You can help prevent motion sickness by looking outside of the vehicle or focusing on the horizon.
  • Symptoms usually end once the motion stops.
  • You can try travel sickness treatments to help prevent motion sickness.

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is feeling unwell when moving on any type of transport. It is also known as ‘travel sickness’, 'car sickness' or 'sea sickness'. It is a normal response to certain types of movement.

There are a few ways to prevent and manage motion sickness.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

Nausea is the main symptom of motion sickness. But you might also experience other symptoms, including:

  • vomiting or retching
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • cold sweating
  • headache
  • lack of appetite
  • dry mouth or excess saliva
  • increased sensitivity to smell

If you are prone to motion sickness, you may quickly feel sick if you read a book or look at your phone when in a moving vehicle.

You might feel better after vomiting, and symptoms will generally improve once you stop moving. But you can also feel the after-effects of motion sickness for a few hours or a few days before fully recovering.

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness is thought to be caused by your senses being confused when what you see is different to the signals felt by your inner ear balance system.

If you are feeling anxious about travel, this can make motion sickness worse.

You can get motion sick when:

  • travelling by car, bus, boat, train or aeroplane
  • on amusement park rides
  • playing virtual reality video games or simulations

Motion sickness is a common problem. It is most frequent in children aged between 2 and 12 years. If other family members get motion sickness, it is more likely that you will too.

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If you already have a condition that causes nausea, such as morning sickness or migraines, you may be more likely to experience motion sickness.

How is motion sickness diagnosed?

You don’t need to see a doctor or get any tests for a diagnosis of motion sickness. There is a pattern of feeling unwell during travel or movement, so you will probably know if you have it.

If you often feel dizzy or nauseous at other times too, discuss this with your doctor.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is motion sickness treated and prevented?

Practical tips

Here are some tips for preventing motion sickness:

  • Look out of the window, and focus on the horizon instead of looking at a book or a screen.
  • Try to sit or lie still and rest your head on a pillow or headrest.
  • Sit close to the front of a car, bus or train.
  • If flying, sit still and close your eyes during take-off and landing.
  • Listen to music and breathe mindfully.
  • Open the window or air vent for fresh air.
  • Eat lightly before and during the trip and avoid alcohol. Sip water instead.

Pressure bands worn on your wrists may help prevent motion sickness in some people.

If you are travelling by sea, after a few days of exposure to the motion you will likely adapt and get used to it.


You can try taking travel sickness medicines to prevent motion sickness. These may include:

  • antihistamines
  • hyoscine
  • antiemetics (medications to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting)

There might be side effects, such as drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice on what to take. Getting advice is especially important:

  • for children
  • if you are taking other medicines
  • if you are pregnant

If you are using a travel sickness medicine, you should take it about half an hour before travel. If you have motion sickness and you already feel nauseous, it is probably too late to take a medicine. Eating a few plain crackers or having a clear, fizzy drink may help.

If you or your child regularly suffer from motion sickness, make sure you have a container, plastic bags and wipes handy. Take a break for some fresh air when needed.

Resources and support

Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to prevent and treat motion sickness.

Visit the Australian Government Smart Traveller website for more travel health advice.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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