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June 17th, 2010
01:18 PM ET

Motion sickness solutions

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Doan in Vietnam:

“Why do I always have car sickness and vomit a lot when I travel? Any ways to prevent this?”

Answer:
Doan, thanks for the question. I feel your pain. I fall victim to carsickness myself once in a while. Motion sickness can happen just about any time you're moving. Some people, like myself, get sick in a car. Others can be affected at an amusement park, at an IMAX theater, even when getting off a treadmill! It's all about conflicting messages. Think of it like that. Your entire body is always working to orient itself. Your eyes, your skin, your inner ear, your central nervous system all sending signals.

Here's how it works. Say you're in a car reading a book. Your inner ear, that's the control center for balance, well - it sort of figures out that you're moving. Now take a look at these canals specifically. They have fluid moving through them constantly. And that fluid sort of gives you an idea that, in fact, your body is moving. Meanwhile, your eyes, another key source of balance, see only the page of a book. And it's not moving, oops, a conflicting message. And that's when motion sickness can set in.

I for one get the most sick riding in the back seat of a car. If you’re looking straight ahead at the headrest, your brain starts to get a little confused, and  your visual system can’t keep up with the twists and turns the car is making.  Some people get a little sweaty, get a little nauseated and your heart starts to race.

Some people actually have trained with body sensors to tolerate the mismatch. For example if you grew up in the mountains your entire life-chances are driving on a twisty road wouldn't bother you. So for most people, the more you actually do the things that trigger your motion sickness, the less sick you'll get in the long run.

In the meantime, an over-the-counter antihistamines can help control the symptoms. They get rid of some of the acid in your stomach to take care of the nausea. Simply taking ginger or soda can also help settle your stomach or  opening a window to get some fresh air–that may offer some benefit. But what you really need to do is get behind the wheel and drive the car yourself when available. Now you're in control and your eyes and your ears are all matching up and you can handle all those twists and turns.


soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Pat

    Crystallized ginger has helped me when I had nausea, including carsickness. It's handy because it is portable (almost like a candy). And the good news is that you only need to eat one or two pieces, and then you will know within a few minutes whether or not it works for you.

    June 18, 2010 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Suzi Fowler

    Your idea's for mountain travel has worked great for me. My biggest problem now is with vertigo. When I have an episode I'm usually house bound or wind up hugging a pole at the local store I'm visiting.
    Any helpful tips for this?

    June 18, 2010 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. WingedLady

    I have a serious case of motion sickness. I can even get sick watching an online video that has too much movement, like someone videotaping while driving the car. It doesn't take much. My husband doesn't understand how my needing to drive works for me, but I will show him this article, now. :) Thanks!

    June 19, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Martin

    I also used to get motion sickness problems. I now take so much ginger, I do not feel like I have any motion sickness problems anymore. Before a plane trip, I take 2 ginger tablets at least 20 minutes before the flight(or before riding a roller coaster). Even if I travel by plane all day long and the flights are bouncing around a lot, I never feel any motion related problems. Normally at home, I take one ginger pill during breakfast and dinner and drink ginger tea after lunch and just before bed. You can buy ginger tablets from any health related supplement store or website. I buy mine from VitaminShoppe.com. High strength ginger tea I buy is from Triple Leaf.

    June 21, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jennifer

    I have horrible motion sickness. Anything that swings or has a repeating motion kills me. The vertical blinds in my folks house, windchimes, the clock at my aunt's house. Sometimes it gets so bad the sound of the toilet flushing / refilling or even the shower makes me sick. I notice a change in temperate in the shower can also trigger this. Would ginger help here to??

    June 21, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jeff

    Dr. Gupta – when you talk about antihistamines are you referring to the H1 (allergy medications) or H2 blockers? I would guess you are referring to the H2 blockers, such as Cimetidine (Tagamet), Ranitidine (Zantac), and Famotidine (Pepcid), but I wanted to make sure.

    June 24, 2010 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr. Pitt

      Actually, Jeff, the H2 blockers won't help much. Some H1 blockers will help mild cases, but they can make people verydrowsy. I'd suggest talking to your doctor about options – meclizine is available over the counter ("Bonine") and especially can help people who get really dizzy with motion sickness. Because it only lasts for 6-8 hours, it's also good for short trips. The scopolamine patch is a good option for people on longer trips, but it does require a prescription.

      I also have motion sickness, and I find that sitting near the front of the car, boat, or airplane does help. There's some research that a light meal can help, too. (I still need the meclizine, though!) Good luck!

      July 8, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
  7. geni

    i take Dramamine before every plane or boat ride. also, if you have to sit in the backseat of a car, always sit in the middle. it's not as comfortable but then you can look out the front window instead of the back of the headrest. it really helps!

    June 25, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. dr. jaime

    Try peppermint essential oil dabbed under nose or mixed with water and spritzed! Peppermint works great for nausea!
    #jaimeschehrnd

    July 1, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mark

    I easily get motion sickness under many different conditions. Dramamine solves the problem, but after a long flight or boat trip, I have a sensation that I am still moving for a few days after the trip. Any suggestions?

    July 8, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Lisa

    I'm 46 and have had horrible motion sickness as long as i can remember. I used to beg amusement park ride operators to let me off the ride. I have worse trouble when it is raining and changing barometric pressure. My question is – will chronic motion sickness make me more vulnerable to a future bout of vertigo or Minnears (sp) disease?

    July 9, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. admin epariuri

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    July 10, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. kunde

    Lots of good reading here, many thanks! I was looking on yahoo when I uncovered your post, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to much more from you.

    April 28, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ben Lawson

    A few quick thought from a vestibular / motion sickness researcher:

    The advice to drive the car is helpful, due to the benefits of what is called "reafference." The advice to take anti-histamines is technically correct but could be misleading - more specific drug names should be mentioned, such as meclizine, etc. Also, anti-motion sickness meds. do not work by getting rid of acid in the stomach - their effects are central.

    Spoiler alert: The evidence concerning ginger is mixed enough to make it not worth my while, but I don't want to mess up anyone's placebo effect (which can be strong in motion sickness).

    Happy driving!

    June 6, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeanne Schramm

      For car sickness, see my note below.

      August 2, 2014 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  14. sgroclkc

    There are three main types of nightmares(death dreams or being chased dreams ,flying dreams or falling dreams and Incubus) that are caused by three main scary symptom {the scary sensations of palpitation make you feel as if you’re going to die at any moment[1], the scary sinking feeling in heart of palpitation and scary fainting (syncope) }. They are all different in certain ways. All three types of nightmares can lead to a scary heart palpitations-sensations. Scary Incubus or scary fainting (syncope) can lead to scary lightheaded and dizzy , a loss of strength and a loss of consciousness, perspiration, vision problems, difficulty hearing, ringing in your ears, pressure in your chest[2] and others do not.
    [1]http://www.anxietyguru.net/how-to-stop-heart-palpitations/
    [2]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fainting/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

    December 9, 2011 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Faik

    Good reading time here. Well, I've had my own share of motion sickness both In the car & plane to some degree.
    I want to know if it can be cured totally? because I really want to be a pilot some day.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Zim

    My colleagues always make fun of my back seat car sickness. I always get back seat car sickness after 10-15 minutes. It's best to look out of the window and keep fresh air circulating. Also, falling asleep takes your mind off the motion conflict as your brain is more concerned about making you fall asleep. I tried the front seat many times and I don't get nauseated. Instead, I may have some mild dizziness but that's okay and much better than feeling like throwing up.

    October 19, 2013 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeanne Schramm

      For car sickness see my entry for Aug.2, 2014.

      August 2, 2014 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  17. jeanne schramm

    Relax everybody! The problem's been solved. Carsickness results from nystagmus or "dancing eyes." It's what you get when you look out the side windows of a moving vehicle....which is why people sitting in the back seat get sick but those who sit in the front seat do not ...
    And drivers never get sick

    July 28, 2014 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. jeanne schramm

    Relax everybody! The problem's been solved. Carsickness results from nystagmus or "dancing eyes." It's what you get when you look out the side windows of a moving vehicle....which is why people sitting in the back seat get sick but those who sit in the front seat do not ... and why drivers never get sick.

    And drivers never get sick

    July 28, 2014 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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    December 2, 2014 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.