Motion Sickness

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Motion Sickness Treatment

Motion sickness has existed for as long as we’ve had moving vehicles. For this reason (and because it’s so common), there is a range of treatments12, homeopathic remedies, and medications available to help treat and prevent motion sickness.

One of the best techniques to help alleviate your symptoms is limiting sensory confusion by ensuring that your brain continues to receive the proper sensory cues. You can make your decision on how to do this based on what type of vehicle you’re in13:

  • Car: If you’re in the car, you should sit in the front seat and look out the window off into the distance. Avoid using your phone or reading a book, as the contrast between the static screen or page and the movement around can result in motion sickness. Some people find that driving the car themselves is helpful, as maintaining control of the vehicle’s movement can help synchronize your sensory expectations and perceptions.
  • Ship: Ideally, you want to stay in a cabin that’s near the waterline (not too far above or below deck) and close to the middle of the ship. This minimizes the amount of motion you experience. When you do go on board, get to the deck and look out towards the horizon (so you’re looking in the direction you’re moving toward).
  • Plane: Try to get a window seat, ideally right in front of the wing. Sitting near a window helps you make sense of the plane’s movements, and this area of the plane tends to experience the least amount of turbulence.
  • Train: Sit by a window facing forward (in the direction that the train is moving). Look ahead of you, rather than behind you or to your side.

Motion sickness medication

Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs14 are available to treat motion sickness.

One common type of over-the-counter medication for motion sickness is antihistamines. Antihistamines, which are commonly taken for seasonal allergies (called allergic rhinitis or hay fever), help prevent and treat the symptoms of motion sickness. Some of these medications used to treat motion sickness in particular include meclizine (generic Antivert, Bonine), dimenhydrinate (generic Dramamine), and diphenhydramine (generic Benadryl). The most common side effect of these medications is drowsiness.

The most common prescription treatment for motion sickness is scopolamine. The scopolamine patch, which fits right behind your ear, can work for as long as three days.

Your provider may prescribe the following medications for motion sickness:

May be prescribed

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Motion sickness remedies

Motion sickness remedies generally fall into two categories: behavioral remedies15 and non-pharmaceutical remedies.

The following behavioral remedies16 may help with the symptoms of motion sickness:

  • Look towards the horizon: Whether on land, sea, or air, looking at the horizon can help prevent you from feeling unwell.
  • Avoid looking at moving objects: These include cars passing by, looking directly out the train window (not at the horizon), and ocean waves.
  • Eat well: Before traveling, opt for light, easily digestible foods that are low in fat and acid. These include fruits (like apples and bananas) and whole grains (like bread and cereal). Avoid fatty, greasy foods, such as bacon or pancakes, and acidic foods, like oranges. While it’s good to have something in your stomach before a trip, don’t overeat just before traveling, as this can worsen nausea.
  • Drink well: Because of their highly acidic nature, coffee and orange juice can make the symptoms of motion sickness worse. It’s best to stick with beverages like water, milk, or apple juice before traveling.
  • Breathe well: In some cases, calming down your breathing can make all the difference. If you’re starting to feel carsick, close your eyes, relax, and slow your breathing. Meditation may also help in the same way.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a big concern for those that experience vomiting along with motion sickness. Staying hydrated can help prevent this from happening. A good indication of how hydrated you are is the color of your urine: the clearer it is, the better.
  • Avoid alcohol: This includes the night before. Not only can alcohol make you dehydrated, having a hangover can make you more prone to experiencing motion sickness and make the symptoms more severe.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking—as well as exposure to secondhand smoke—can aggravate the stomach.
  • Be well rested: If you’re overtired, you’re more prone to experiencing the symptoms of motion sickness. Make sure to get plenty of sleep before traveling.
  • Stand up: Stay standing whenever possible. Sitting and lying down can make the symptoms of motion sickness worse.
  • Avoid reading or using electronic devices: Staring at a static screen or page can trigger or worsen motion sickness.
  • Find a distraction: Whether it’s a podcast, a great conversation, or your favorite song, finding something (non-visual) to focus on can help take your mind off of the situation. Something engaging (like singing a song) can be especially effective with children who experience motion sickness.
  • Buy a neck pillow/headrest: Because adverse motion causes motion sickness, having a pillow to support your head and neck and keep it in one position may help keep symptoms to a minimum.
  • Avoid others with motion sickness: It can be nauseating to be around other people who are actively experiencing motion sickness. This can even trigger motion sickness itself.
  • When sick, consume dry crackers: Dry crackers, like saltines, can help quell your stomach if it’s upset.
  • Take a break: If you’re in the car, pull over, get out, and take a walk. Stop to get some water or breathe some fresh air.

Alternative treatments and remedies may also be helpful options to explore. Although there are few high-quality clinical trials that support their use, the following may be beneficial as complementary or preventative measures to treating motion sickness:

  • Eat ginger: Ginger and ginger products (like tea) have been found to help settle an upset stomach. Ginger tablets and biscuits are also available for those who would prefer not to consume it directly.
  • Eat peppermint: Like ginger, peppermint may help calm nausea. Peppermint gum, hard candies, and tea are all options that may help soothe your stomach.
  • Try aromatherapy: Both ginger and lavender have been found to have calming effects on the body.
  • Get a motion sickness band/acupressure wristband: While there is no hard science behind the efficacy of these products, some people have found success in reducing or eliminating nausea and motion sickness by wearing acupressure wristbands.

Motion sickness patch

The motion sickness patch17 contains the active ingredient scopolamine. Its goal, much like the natural and medicinal varieties above, is to reduce or eliminate the nausea (and, by extension, vomiting) that can occur as a result of motion sickness. The scopolamine found in motion sickness patches works by blocking the effects of acetylcholine on the body’s nervous system.

To use a motion sickness patch, you place it behind your ear in contact with your skin (not on your hair). First, you wash the area thoroughly and wipe it dry. You then place the adhesive side down against the skin and push down to ensure that the entire patch is making contact with the skin. It’s important to avoid placing it on broken or damaged skin, as this may cause irritation.

The best time to use the motion sickness patch is well before (at least four hours prior to) getting into a situation that could cause motion sickness. However, once you’ve placed it, the patch can work for up to three days.

If the situation is set to last longer than three days (for instance, a cross-country road trip or a cruise), you can always remove the patch after three days and replace it with another one. Note, however, that the patch may fall off in water.

Along with consulting your healthcare provider, make sure to use the patch for no longer than the recommended three days. If you leave it on for too long, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, headaches, confusion, trouble balancing, dizziness, abdominal cramps, vomiting, weakness, and confusion.

Motion sickness bands

Motion sickness bands, also called acupressure wristbands, are a popular solution for dealing with motion sickness. While there hasn’t been a lot of clinical research into these motion sickness bands, they claim to work by applying acupressure on the wrist with a stud.

The good news is that these bands do not rely on any sort of medication, so there are no side effects and are safe for children. On the other hand, there is no proof that they actually work.

To use it, you put your three middle fingers (pointer, middle, and ring) on the inside of your wrist, pressing the stud down into the pressure point. It’s important to note that you do this on both hands simultaneously. They are advertised to be effective both before and during your journey.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.