Seven Things You Don't Know about Motion Sickness

1. Just Thinking About Motion Sickness Can Cause It

You've heard that your thoughts can be powerful (mind over matter and all that) and when it comes to motion sickness, it's true. People who expect to get motion sickness are more likely to get it. That doesn't mean you should feel bad if you can't "will" yourself out of being sick, but changing your thought process might help you avoid or minimize symptoms.

2. Some of Us Are More Likely to Get Sick Than Others

Studies show that virtually all of us will eventually experience motion sickness if exposed to enough motion for a long enough period of time, but some of us have a higher threshold than others. People who are more likely to experience the symptoms of motion sickness include children ages 2-12 years, women (especially pregnant women), and migraine sufferers.

3. It Could Be A Medication You're Taking

Several prescription and over-the-counter medications can predispose you or contribute to the symptoms of motion sickness. Since everyone reacts differently, any medication you are taking should be suspect. However, the following medications have been shown to bring on or contribute to the symptoms of motion sickness:

  • fluoxetine
  • narcotic pain medications like morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone
  • paroxetine
  • sertraline
  • aminophylline
  • some medications used to treat parasites, such as chloroquine
  • some antibiotics including sulfa, azithromycin, and erythromycin
  • bisphosphonates, such as alendronate sodium

Individuals taking these medications may want to talk to their doctor about the possibility of changing the time the medication is taken or the possibility of skipping a dose before traveling.

Do not skip medications without talking to your physician.

4. Another Condition Could be Causing Your Symptoms

Many other conditions cause the same symptoms as motion sickness. As a general rule, the symptoms of motion sickness should go away as soon as the motion stops (or shortly after). If symptoms continue, you should see a doctor. Some conditions that can cause similar symptoms include:

If you experience the symptoms of motion sickness after hitting your head or being involved in an accident, you should go to the emergency room or call 911. Some serious conditions, such as a stroke, may also cause similar symptoms and need to be treated immediately. Remember, if it wasn't brought on by motion and it doesn't stop when the motion does, it's not motion sickness.

5. Motion Sickness is More Than Just Nausea

When most of us think of motion sickness, we think of nausea and vomiting, but motion sickness can cause other symptoms as well.

Also, the degree to which you experience symptoms, and which ones you experience, is individualized, so it's possible that you could have motion sickness without nausea and vomiting. Below is a complete list of common symptoms associated with motion sickness.

  • cold sweats
  • pale skin
  • fatigue
  • yawning
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • mood changes

Some people experience such extreme fatigue when exposed to motion that they've been grouped into a subcategory of motion sickness called sopite syndrome. In sopite syndrome, the main symptoms are extreme fatigue and drowsiness accompanied by mood changes and an absence of nausea and vomiting.

6. A Cure Could be as Simple as Changing Activities

Activities such as reading in the car, knitting, or anything that requires you to focus on an object inside of the vehicle can bring on and make symptoms of motion sickness worse. Sometimes putting these activities down and looking out the window can make symptoms subside. Switching seats can also help as certain positions in the vehicle can make you more prone to motion sickness.

People who are driving a car virtually never get car sickness, so if you get sick while riding as a passenger in a car, ask if you can drive. Activities that require sudden changes in motion should be avoided.

7. Your Hormones Might be to Blame

Estrogen is a major culprit when it comes to motion sickness. Not only are women, in general, more likely to experience motion sickness than men, but studies have shown that women can be more or less likely to experience motion sickness depending on what phase of their menstrual cycle they are in.

Birth control pills that contain estrogen, or estrogen supplements given for the symptoms of menopause, can also increase your risk of getting motion sickness.


American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Dizziness and Motion Sickness. Accessed: June 23, 2012 from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Motion Sickness. Accessed: June 23, 2012 from

Dizziness and Motion Sickness. Accessed: June 23, 2012 from

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