Motion (or travel) sickness occurs when you feel unwell due to being in a moving vehicle. Commonly known as 'car sickness' or 'sea sickness', it is a normal response and can generally be prevented.
What is motion sickness?
Motion sickness is thought to be caused by your body being unbalanced in a moving vehicle so that your senses are confused.
Aside from transportation, such as by car, boat or plane, motion sickness can be triggered by amusement park rides and virtual reality experiences.
Many people are susceptible to it, especially women and children, though it is less common after 10 to 12 years of age. It is also uncommon for children aged under 2 years to experience motion sickness.
Symptoms of motion sickness
Nausea is the main symptom of motion sickness but you might also experience other symptoms, including:
Treatment and prevention of motion sickness
Testing is not required for diagnosis of motion sickness since you will probably know if you are experiencing it. After a few days of exposure to the motion, you will likely adapt.
You might feel better after vomiting, and symptoms will generally end once you get out of the vehicle. But you can also feel the after effects for a few hours or a few days before fully recovering.
The best treatment for motion sickness is prevention, and there are many things you can do while travelling in a moving vehicle.
- Look outside the vehicle instead of reading or looking at a screen, e.g. look out the window, or focus on the horizon if travelling in a boat.
- Listen to music and breathe mindfully.
- Get plenty of fresh air, if possible. On a plane, open the air vent.
- Lay down if you can or sit in a stable position using a headrest. Depending on the vehicle, sit facing forward and in a seat where it will be less bumpy. In a car or bus, sit at the front; if flying, sit over the airplane wing.
- Eat lightly before the trip and avoid heavy food and alcohol.
- Ginger, peppermint and acupressure wrist bands might also be helpful.
You can take certain over-the-counter medications just before travel to prevent motion sickness, but there might be other side effects. Speak to a pharmacist or doctor for advice, particularly for children or if you are pregnant.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your motion sickness, use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it's self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: June 2019