How To Keep Motion Sickness at Bay

If half the fun is getting there, then do not let motion sickness stand in your way. In today's world, we travel by land, water, and air. Luckily, motion sickness, which can make you feel sick to your stomach (nausea) is mild and treatable in most cases. If you have travel in your future, then your best defense is to plan ahead.

Causes of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is not a disorder of the stomach, but a disorder of the inner ear, the body's balance system. Our bodies keep balance in check through a complex mix of signals involving the eyes, ears, and brain. When the balance system sends conflicting information to the brain, it gets confused. This confusion leads to the unpleasant symptoms of motion sickness.

There are some tricks you can use to combat the nauseous feeling you get, which may help you avoid using medication.

Preventing Motion Sickness

Prevention should be the first strategy. Try to avoid situations that may trigger motion sickness. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try lying on your back, looking at the horizon, or closing your eyes. This might reduce the conflicting messages your brain is receiving about movement.
  • Do not read while traveling.
  • Do not sit in the rear seat.
  • Breathe fresh air, if possible.
  • Avoid food that might not agree with you.
  • Sit in a forward-facing seat.

If these suggestions are not possible or do not help, there are some over-the-counter and prescription remedies that can ease your symptoms.

Treating Motion Sickness


Sometimes reducing the sense of nausea is enough to make you feel more comfortable. If you do not want to take or cannot take medication, try something with ginger. Ginger in small doses has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting, especially in pregnant women. However, the evidence for ginger to treat motion sickness is inconsistent. Ginger comes in many forms, and can be found in tea, ginger ale, or bread. It also comes in pill form, so it can be taken like any other medication.

If you take blood thinners, ginger may increase the risk of bleeding, so consult your doctor.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are procedures that use needles or pressure points on your body. When stimulated, the body reacts. The value of these treatments is still being investigated in a variety of health issues. People with motion sickness symptoms like nausea or vomiting have reported mixed results. Consider this as an option if other treatments fail.


Over-the-counter antihistimines used to treat symptoms include dimenhydrinate and meclizine. If other methods do not help, a prescription such as scopolamine may help, It is available in either pill form or as a small patch worn behind the ear. Keep in mind that these drugs will suppress the nausea and queasiness of motion sickness, but may also cause drowsiness. Read the label and be aware of any side effects that will affect your ability to drive safely.

Motion sickness is common. If you plan ahead before you travel, you may avoid an unpleasant trip.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

Canadian Resources:

Health Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Acupuncture. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: Updated May 13, 2016. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Published 2016. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Ginger. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: Updated August 2013. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Ginger. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Updated June 21, 2016. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Motion sickness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Updated July 10, 2015. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 29, 2016. Accessed July 21, 2016.

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed July 21, 2016.

White B. Ginger: An overview. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:1689-1691.

Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 10/23/2014