Motion Sickness

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Motion Sickness


I have often sat enviously watching my brother read for hours on a long car journey. I just can’t do. Within five minutes I find myself regretting the attempt to defy my history of motion sickness and desperately searching for a way to ease the quease. Whether you travel a lot or just make the occasional hop over the channel for some booze, motion sickness can really ruin your trip. Though motion sickness is in fact an evolved response there are a couple of skills you can master to help settle your churning stomach.


Most people get a bit motion sick every now and again. You may just notice general discomfort and feel a queasy. However bad motion sickness can cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • A cold sweat


Motion sickness happens when you brain gets confused (and not by an algebra test). Your brain relies on your eyes and the fluid in your ears (your vestibular sense) to help keep you standing upright and balanced. Usually the two senses are in sync but when you get motion sickness it’s because your eyes and your ears are sending your brain different messages.

When you move around the fluid in your ears moves too, so if you are driving in a fast car or on a rocking boat the moving fluid tells your brain you are moving. Your eyes on the other hand may not be able to perceive this movement. For instance, if you are looking down at book in the car they may not be aware you are hurtling down the M1 at 70 miles per hour. So your eyes and your vestibular sense are telling your brain two conflicting bits of information. In response your brain thinks that can’t be possible, one of them must be wrong or hallucinating. Evolutionarily, your body has learnt to associate hallucination with poison and therefore will induce you to throw up to try and get the poison out of your system.


You can do a lot to help yourself by joining things up for your brain and avoiding making it more confused. You will also find over time you will get used to it and your body will adapt to motion better.

    Self Help

    • Focus on the horizon or a distant still object (the wisdom of this practice makes a lot more sense now, huh?)
    • Keep your head still
    • Don’t read or play games
    • Get some fresh air if possible
      • Crack a car window or go for a wander on deck
    • Breath
      • Controlling breathing has been show to help a little this maybe as it also helps you to relax
    • Avoid things that will make your stomach feel worse
      • Alcohol
      • Cigarette smoke
      • Greasy or spicy food
    • Try drinking a fizzy drink if you feel particularly nauseous. The carbonation can help settle your stomach. Ginger may also help calm the churn. Ginger ale equals the best of both worlds.


    If you suffer from bad motion sickness, there are some medicines you can pick up from you local pharmacy without a prescription. Remember they are most effective if you take them before you go on a trip so your body has time to absorb them.

    • Hyoscine (often comes in patches)
      • This is considered the most effective motion sickness medicine but has a number of common side effects so some people don’t like to take it. And you definitely can’t take it and drive
      • It helps by blocking some of the nerve signals going from your vestibular sense (inner ear) to your brain
      • Common side effects are:
        • Drowsiness
        • Dry mouth
        • Dizziness
        • Blurred Vision
      • It is highly advised some people don’t take it including children and young adults. Ask your pharmacist whether or not it’s OK for you.
    • Antihistamines
      • Though these are more commonly associated with allergies some antihistamines help to control vomiting and nausea associated with motion sickness
      • They tend to be less effective then hyoscine but have less side effects
      • Common ones used to treat motion sickness include
        • Pronethezine
        • Cyclizine
        • Cinnorizine
      • Side effects may include:
        • Headaches
        • Pins and needles
        • Blurred vision
        • And some cause drowsiness

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