Skip to main content.

Travel plans? Check out these tips for preventing and treating motion sickness

Posted February 28, 2022 by John Weeman, M.D.

Woman on couching holding her head with blurring surroundings

Have you ever walked off a boat, stepped off a rollercoaster or gotten out of a car only to feel nauseous, dizzy and otherwise awful?  That’s motion sickness.  Anyone can experience it — one in three people do in their lifetime, in fact — but it’s most common in children and pregnant women.

Typically, motion sickness occurs with any form of travel, whether by car, bus, train, airplane or boat.  Sometimes amusement rides can cause it, too. Though it’s not a serious condition, it can make travel very uncomfortable and stressful.

Symptoms for motion sickness can come on suddenly and may include:

  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Increase in saliva production
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cold sweats
  • Pale skin

Motion sickness occurs when your senses send mixed messages to your brain.  For example, when driving in a car, your eyes see trees passing and register movement, your inner ears sense movement, but your muscles and joints feel your body sitting still.  Your brain becomes confused reaction makes you feel sick. 

So before you hit the road this summer, follow Summa Health’s tips for preventing and treating motion sickness so you can keep the focus on your journey.

Ways to prevent motion sickness

If you’re especially prone to motion sickness, try these preventative measures:

  • Choose your seat wisely to minimize disruptive motion.Sit near the front, if possible, when traveling by car, bus or train, and avoid sitting backwards. If you can, drive the vehicle. If traveling by plane, request a window seat or one by the wing. If you’re on a cruise ship, choose a cabin near the front of the ship and one at water level with a balcony, if possible.
  • Avoid reading while traveling.
  • Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water. Dehydration and headaches can lead to worse outcomes if you’re prone to motion sickness.
  • Eat a well-balanced meal so your stomach is settled. Avoid acidic or greasy foods before and during your travels.
  • Try preventative medication. Benadryl or Dramamine, for example, can help prevent and even treat motion sickness. Take the medicine about an hour before travel, but beware of the downsides. Many of these medications can make you sleepy.

Ways to treat motion sickness

If you do get motion sickness on your trip, follow these tips for easing discomfort. If you experience persistent vomiting and are showing signs of dehydration, contact your healthcare provider.

  • Find something to focus on. Close your eyes, take deep breaths or focus on the horizon or other stable object in the distance.
  • Get fresh air, if possible. Open car or bus windows, or come up on the deck of a ship. If you’re in an airplane, direct the air vents toward you.
  • Stimulate other senses to distract you from the motion. Aromatherapy, sucking on ginger or peppermint hard candies, or drinking bubbly sodas can help.

The good news is for most people, symptoms don’t usually last long and go away once you get used to the situation or your journey is over. Happy travels!

John M Weeman, MD

John M Weeman, MD

View Profile


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.