7 Things You Didn't Know About Motion Sickness

You have probably had motion sickness at some point in your life. Also known as vertigo, seasickness, or carsickness, motion sickness is common in childhood.

Traveling by car, boat, or airplane are obvious causes of motion sickness. There are some factors, though, that may put you at greater risk of feeling ill.

This article will discuss some of the factors that can contribute to motion sickness. It will also offer suggestions for improving your symptoms.

Surprising Facts About Motion Sickness

 Verywell / Maritsa Patrinos

Some Are at Higher Risk for Motion Sickness

Studies show that almost everyone is prone to motion sickness. Some people, though, won't feel sick unless they are exposed to motion for long periods of time.

Some people are more likely to get motion sickness, including:

  • Children ages 2-12 years
  • Women (especially pregnant women)
  • People who get migraine headaches

Motion Sickness Can Have Other Symptoms

Everyone responds to motion differently. You may get more or less sick than someone else. You may also have different symptoms.

Nausea and vomiting are not the only symptoms of motion sickness. Some people will have only the other symptoms and not the stomach upset.

Below are some common symptoms of motion sickness:

  • Cold sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale skin
  • Yawning

Some people get very fatigued when exposed to motion. These people have a subcategory of motion sickness called sopite syndrome.

The main symptoms of sopite syndrome are extreme fatigue, drowsiness, and mood changes. Nausea and vomiting are not symptoms of sopite syndrome.

Medications May Be a Cause

Some medications can contribute to motion sickness. This includes prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

Everyone responds to medication differently. The medications below have been shown to cause motion sickness or make symptoms worse. Keep in mind, though, that any medication could contribute to motion sickness.

  • Aralen Phosphate (chloroquine) and some other medications used to treat parasites
  • Azasite (azithromycin), E.E.S. (erythromycin), sulfanilamides, and some other antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Bisphosphonates, such as Binosto (alendronate)
  • Digitek (digoxin)
  • Estrogen-containing medications
  • Inbrija (levodopa)
  • Narcotic pain medications like Kadian (morphine), OxyContin (oxycodone), or Hysingla ER (hydrocodone)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Phyllocontin (aminophylline)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

If you take any of these medications, talk to your doctor before traveling. Skipping or changing the time you take your medication could help, but ask your doctor first.

Do not skip medications without talking to your doctor first.

Hormones Might Be to Blame

Women are more likely than men to experience motion sickness. Estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, can contribute to motion sickness.

Studies have also shown that the menstrual cycle can affect how someone experiences motion sickness.

Birth control pills that contain estrogen can increase your risk of getting motion sickness. Estrogen supplements that treat the symptoms of menopause can also increase the risk.

It May Be Another Condition

Other conditions can cause the same symptoms as motion sickness. Motion sickness should go away when or just after you stop moving. See a doctor if your symptoms continue.

Conditions that can cause similar symptoms include:

If you feel sick after you hit your head or were in an accident, go to the emergency room or call 911.

Some serious conditions, such as a stroke, may cause similar symptoms. These conditions need immediate treatment.

Remember, if it was not brought on by motion and it does not stop when the motion does, it is not motion sickness.

Changing Activities Can Help Motion Sickness

Some activities can bring on motion sickness or make symptoms worse. This includes any activity where you focus on something inside the moving vehicle. Reading, knitting, or watching movies are all good examples.

It may help to stop these activities and look out the window. You can also try switching seats. Some positions in the vehicle can make you more prone to feeling ill.

Drivers almost never get carsick. If you are a passenger, ask if you can drive.

Avoid activities that require sudden changes in motion.

Thoughts May Trigger Motion Sickness

Research suggests that people who think they will get motion sickness are more likely to get it. You may be able to avoid or minimize your symptoms by changing your thoughts and finding a distraction.


Motion sickness is different for everyone. Some people are more prone to getting motion sickness than others.

Nausea and vomiting aren't the only symptoms of motion sickness. Some people experience other symptoms like fatigue and mood changes.

Medications, hormones, and some activities can contribute to motion sickness. Motion sickness that does not go away after the motion stops may be another condition. See your doctor if symptoms last longer than four hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes motion sickness?

    Motion sickness happens when your brain gets conflicting information. Your inner ears sense motion, but the inside of the vehicle appears motionless to your eyes. As your brain tries to process this difference, it can make you feel sick.

  • What is the best motion sickness medicine?

    Common medications include Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or Transderm-Scop (scopolamine). Ask your doctor which choice is best for you. Some medications can cause side effects, including sleepiness.

  • How long does motion sickness last?

    Motion sickness usually stops within four hours of ending the activity or movement.

  • How can you prevent motion sickness?

    Some ways to help prevent motion sickness include:

    • Looking out the front window of a car
    • Focusing on a fixed point in the distance
    • Rolling down car windows or pointing air vents toward you
    • Sucking on ginger or peppermint hard candies
13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.