Minus/plus icon
ResourcesExplore the full ACKO experience and make the most of your plan

Home / Health Insurance / Articles / First Aid / Motion Sickness: Signs, Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Motion Sickness: Signs, Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Team AckoMay 24, 2024

If you feel nauseated at the thought of getting into a car or dread roller coasters due to stomach churning, you might be experiencing motion sickness (MS). This common condition occurs when the brain receives conflicting signals about movement, leading to symptoms like nausea and dizziness. Understanding triggers, such as transportation modes or certain activities, can help manage and alleviate symptoms, ensuring a more comfortable experience while travelling or engaging in motion-inducing activities. This article will give you an overview of MS along with some tips for preventing and minimizing its effects. Read ahead to explore.





Signs of Motion Sickness

Symptoms of Motion Sickness are as follows.







Increased saliva production

Abdominal discomfort


Loss of appetite

Blurred vision

Ringing in the ear

Cold clammy skin

Causes of Motion Sickness

The common cause of this condition is a mismatch between the visual and vestibular systems. The vestibular system is the sensory system responsible for the sense of balance and spatial orientation of the body. When you are inside a vehicle or moving platform, your eyes can perceive movement and changes in direction, while your vestibular system does not detect any changes. This creates a mismatch between the two systems, leading to feelings of disorientation and dizziness, which is called Motion Sickness.

Other causes of MS can include low blood sugar, anxiety, fatigue, and certain medications. People may also be more prone to this condition if they don’t get enough sleep or if they are exposed to strong odours in the vehicle. In some cases, even the anticipation of motion can be enough to trigger symptoms of MS in some people. 

The Role Of The Ears

The inner ears play a crucial role in maintaining balance and spatial orientation, forming the vestibular system along with the brain. Comprising three pairs of semicircular canals and two sacs, the saccule, and utricle, this intricate network continuously gathers and processes information about our body's position and movement in space.

The semicircular canals are fluid-filled structures that detect rotational movements of the head. As the head turns, the fluid within these canals moves, stimulating hair cells that convert the movement into electrical signals sent to the brain. This information enables us to perceive changes in direction and adjust our posture accordingly.

Other Parts Of The Ear

Meanwhile, the saccule and utricle are sensitive to gravity and linear acceleration. They contain tiny calcium carbonate crystals that shift in response to changes in position, giving the brain feedback about whether we are standing, sitting, or lying down. This input helps maintain our equilibrium and coordinate movements with our visual and proprioceptive senses.

The semicircular canals, saccule, and utricle form a sophisticated system that allows us to navigate our environment with precision and stability, highlighting the intricate connection between our inner ears and our sense of balance.

The role of the brain

Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting signals about movement from different sensory systems. For instance, when flying in a plane, the inner ears sense motion due to changes in acceleration, but the eyes perceive a stationary environment within the aircraft cabin. This discrepancy confuses the brain, leading to symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and discomfort.

Conversely, during a sea voyage, the inner ears detect the ship's rocking motion, while the eyes observe the relatively stable surroundings of the ship's interior or the horizon. Again, this contradiction between sensory inputs causes disorientation and motion sickness.

In both scenarios, the brain struggles to reconcile the conflicting signals, resulting in an unpleasant sensation of movement despite the absence of actual physical motion. Motion sickness can vary in severity among individuals and may be alleviated by reducing sensory disparities, such as by focusing on a fixed point or taking medications that mitigate symptoms.

Types of Motion Sickness

The five types of Motion Sicknesses people face are as follows.

Seasickness: People who are susceptible to MS may experience seasickness, which is caused by the combination of rocked motions of a boat and visual cues, such as the horizon or wave patterns on the water. Its symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sweating.

Airsickness: This type of MS occurs when a person is in an aircraft flying at high altitudes, and the turbulence causes a feeling of nausea, and vomiting.

Car Sickness: It is a condition that occurs when a person experiences nausea and sometimes vomiting while travelling in a car, or amusement park ride. Symptoms are often caused by the motion of the vehicle or the environment in which they are travelling.

Ride Sickness: This type of MS is caused by the rapid and jerking movements of an amusement park ride. It can cause dizziness, and vomiting.

Virtual reality sickness: This MS occurs when a person wears a virtual reality headset to experience a 3D environment. It can cause a feeling of nausea, and dizziness.

Diagnosing Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness is usually diagnosed based on a person's symptoms and medical history. A physical examination may also be performed to look for other causes of the symptoms. Tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) and an electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done to rule out other causes. Also, a CT scan or MRI may be recommended if the cause of the MS is suspected to be related to a neurological condition.

Check out: ECG Heart Rate Calculator 

Risk factors

Several risk factors contribute to motion sickness, with riding in various modes of transportation being a primary trigger. Individuals between the ages of 2 and 12 are particularly susceptible, along with women, who generally experience a higher risk compared to men. Sleep deprivation, alcohol or drug consumption, and a history of conditions like migraines, anxiety, frequent vomiting, or nausea also increase susceptibility.

Exposure to cigarette smoke, strong odours, or certain foods can exacerbate symptoms, as can poor ventilation within the vehicle. Additionally, sitting in the back seat or in a position where one cannot see out the window may heighten the likelihood of experiencing motion sickness. Pregnancy can also make individuals more prone to motion sickness due to hormonal changes and increased sensitivity to motion stimuli.

Understanding these risk factors can help individuals take preventative measures or manage symptoms effectively while travelling or engaging in activities that may induce motion sickness.

First aid for Motion Sickness 

Here is a step by step guide to what you can do when you experience Motion Sickness.

Sit in an upright position in the car, bus, or boat. Avoid lying down.

Keep your eyes on the horizon and focus on a distant object.

Take deep, slow breaths.

Ask your travel companion to drive more slowly and smoothly.

Avoid reading or looking down at a phone or a book.

Avoid fatty and greasy foods.

Take medications such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or meclizine (Bonine) if prescribed by your doctor.

Eat and drink ginger, such as ginger candy or ginger ale.

Take a few sips of lemonade, or suck on a lemon wedge to help stimulate saliva production. 

When To See A Healthcare Provider?

Motion sickness, a common phenomenon, is influenced by various risk factors. One primary trigger is the act of travelling in moving vehicles such as cars, boats, aeroplanes, or other modes of transportation. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are particularly vulnerable, along with women, who tend to have a higher susceptibility compared to men. 

  • Several physiological and environmental factors can exacerbate motion sickness. Sleep deprivation weakens the body's ability to adapt to motion changes, while alcohol or drug use disrupts neurological functions involved in sensory perception. 

  • Individuals with a history of migraines, anxiety, frequent vomiting, or nausea may also experience heightened susceptibility due to underlying physiological mechanisms.

  • Moreover, exposure to cigarette smoke, strong odours, or specific foods can trigger or worsen symptoms. 

  • Poor ventilation within the vehicle further compounds the problem by trapping unpleasant smells and increasing discomfort. 

  • Sitting in the back seat or in a position where one cannot see out the window can disrupt the visual cues that help mitigate motion sickness.

Additionally, pregnancy can intensify susceptibility due to hormonal changes and increased sensitivity to motion stimuli. By understanding these risk factors, individuals can take proactive measures to minimise the onset or severity of motion sickness, such as choosing seats with better visibility, avoiding consumption of alcohol or certain foods before travel, and ensuring proper ventilation in enclosed spaces.

Treatment options for Motion Sickness

Here is a list of some treatments that can help you get rid of Motion Sickness.

1. Antihistamines

Antihistamines are a type of medication that blocks the effects of histamine, a chemical that can cause inflammation, redness, and swelling. They are commonly used to treat allergies, but they can also be used to help alleviate symptoms of MS. Antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and loratadine (Alavert), can be taken before travel begins.

2. Skin patch or oral pills

Scopolamine is a medication that can also be used to treat MS. It is available as a skin patch (Transderm Scop®) or an oral pill that can be taken before you begin your journey. The skin patch is usually placed behind the ear, and the oral pills are usually taken every four to six hours.

3. Acupressure

Acupressure is a treatment that uses physical pressure applied to certain points on the body to relieve nausea and vomiting resulting from MS. Points known as the P6 (or the Nei-Kuan point) and the Pc6 (or Pericardium 6) are two of the most commonly used acupressure points for Motion Sickness relief. To apply acupressure, gently press and massage the points for several minutes until the feeling of nausea subsides.

4. Ginger

Ginger is a natural remedy that can be used to relieve MS. It has been found to be as effective as medications such as dimenhydrinate and meclizine. It is available in several forms, including ginger capsules, ginger root powder and ginger tea.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint is a natural remedy that has been used for centuries to treat nausea. It is available in several forms, such as peppermint oil, peppermint tea and peppermint capsules.

6. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a treatment that uses essential oils to help you get rid of nausea and vomiting caused by MS. Certain essential oils, such as peppermint, ginger and lavender, are known to be effective at reducing nausea.

Self care tips while travelling

Here are some preventative measures you can count on to reduce Motion Sickness while travelling.

Rest and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualisation can be helpful during travel.

Taking frequent breaks from travel may also reduce symptoms.

Increase fluid intake and avoid alcohol during travel.

Eat light meals and avoid foods heavy in smell and taste.

Eat small meals throughout the day.

Get plenty of rest before travelling.

Avoid fatty and spicy foods.

Avoid reading or watching TV while travelling.

Listen to calming music or wear earplugs to reduce visual stimulation.

Consider taking Motion Sicknesses prevention measures such as antihistamines or acupuncture before travel.

Open the window for fresh air as it can help reduce the feeling of nausea associated with Motion Sickness.

Choose your seat to face the direction of travel.

If symptoms persist, please contact a doctor.

Frequently asked questions

Here is a rundown of some questions related to MS.


What helps Motion Sickness fast?

The best way to treat Motion Sickness quickly is to take over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines or consider ginger. Also, distracting activities such as playing games, or talking can help mitigate symptoms. Taking breaks and getting fresh air can also help to reduce MS.

Which foods reduce Motion Sickness?

Certain foods may help reduce MS. Eating light, bland meals can help keep your stomach calm. Ginger in any form (including candy, tea, or capsules) can help reduce nausea. Other foods that may help, such as crackers and apples, are usually not heavy on the stomach.

What should I avoid if I have Motion Sickness?

You should avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can make MS worse. Eating greasy, spicy, or overly heavy foods can also worsen your symptoms. Also, strong smells can further aggravate MS. So it’s best to avoid overly fragranced products. 

Is lemon good for nausea?

Yes, lemon can help with nausea since it is a natural antacid. Citrus has been used to help ease nausea and indigestion since ancient times. Lemon juice can help reduce the feeling of nausea and soothe the stomach by neutralising stomach acid.

How fast does Motion Sickness go away?

Motion Sickness usually subsides within a few hours. If you take medication for it, the symptoms should subside within about 15-30 minutes. However, it is important to note that it may take much longer for the symptoms to go away, depending on the severity.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


Want to post any comments?


Affordable Health Insurance for You & Your Family starting @ ₹20/day*

✅ 100% Room Rent Covered* ✅ Zero deductions at claims ✅ 7100+ Cashless Hospitals

quote icon

Check health insurance

quote icon