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Travel Health

MOTION SICKNESS-A Guide for Travellers


Travel sickness is a distressing and unpleasant experience;This article gives some practical advice to try minimize it.

motion sickness


  • About 90 percent of people suffer from motion sickness at some time in their lives
  • Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, headache, disorientation, and vomiting
  • Several measures can be taken to help limit motion sickness such as staring at the horizon and breathing fresh air
  • Medication can be helpful

What is it?

Motion sickness is experienced by about 90 percent of people at some time in their lives.

It is caused by the brain receiving conflicting messages from the balance organs in the ears and the focus of your sight. For example if you are reading while traveling your sight is detecting little movement, but your balance centre can still feel movement. This can confuse your brain, leading to motion sickness.

The problem is more common in children than adults and most will grow out if it.

However, some people suffer from it throughout their lives.

The problem is encountered on long car journeys, air travel and on boats and ships.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Disorientated
  • A cold sweat

What can be done?

Several measures can be taken to help limit motion sickness:

  • Avoid eating a heavy meal for dinner or breakfast before leaving on a journey
  • Don't drink alcohol the night before a trip
  • Don't look at moving objects such as waves or scenery Keep your focus at 45 degrees above the horizon. Put children in a car seat so they can see the horizon
  • Sit in the place with the least motion; the front seat of the car, over the wings of the aircraft or in the middle of the ship
  • Face forward in a large ship
  • Breath fresh air if you can
  • Avoid strong odours from tobacco, food or fumes while traveling
  • Avoid reading, or watching a video or movie
  • Trying to sleep can help. Put your seat in the recline position if you are in an aircraft
  • Anti-motion sickness medications are useful in some cases
  • One study has found ginger taken before a journey can help limit motion sickness

Getting help

Some anti-motion sickness tablets can be bought over the counter at pharmacies. A patch worn behind the ear for up to three days is available with a doctor's prescription. This is mainly recommended for long journeys. If you anticipate severe motion sickness,talk to your doctor about a suitable medication to take in advance.

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