Motion sickness remedies: What are the options?

By Yoo Jung, MD Jun 22, 2022 • 5 min

Motion sickness is a common condition that is also referred to by terms such as car sickness, air sickness and sea sickness. While symptoms can be very bothersome, there are a number of over-the-counter medications and prescription treatments available.

Motion sickness pills

There's a wide range of motion sickness treatments available in pill form. These include antihistamines that, in addition to treating allergies, can also be helpful for motion sickness. Antihistamines, such as meclizine and dimenhydrinate, are the most common type of over-the-counter motion sickness medicine available.

Antihistamines can be sedating, which is why you should not take them if you're driving or operating machinery. However, non-drowsy formulations of antihistamines, such as cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine, do not seem to be as effective for motion sickness. If over-the-counter options fail to provide relief and the motion sickness is severe, a healthcare provider may prescribe promethazine pills, which can also cause sedation, dry mouth and blurred vision.

Motion sickness patch

Scopolamine patches are prescription medications applied directly on the skin, usually behind the ears. They can last up to 72 hours, and you can use them for prolonged travel, including on cruises and during train journeys and long car rides. Common side effects of scopolamine include blurred vision and dry mouth. If you have certain health problems, such as glaucoma or trouble with urination for example, you should not take scopolamine.

Natural remedies for motion sickness

In addition to medication, here are some tips that may help provide relief while traveling: 

  • When you are traveling, pick a seat with the least amount of turbulence or motion. On a plane, choose a seat next to the wings. On a train, try sitting near the front and make sure you’re facing forward. On a smaller boat, try to sit near the middle where the movement is felt less and stay on deck so you can see the horizon. For a cruise ship vacation, an interior room in the middle of the boat is recommended to decrease the rocking sensation while sailing. In a vehicle, it’s best to sit in either the driver's seat or the front passenger's seat. 
  • Keep your head straight and upright, and focus on a distant object on the horizon. 
  • Avoid reading books or using your phone while in a vehicle.

Some scientific research has found that eating 1 to 2 grams of ginger before travel can help to prevent motion sickness. However, more research is needed to know for sure if ginger is effective for motion sickness. 

Acupressure is another natural remedy for motion sickness. Acupressure involves placing direct pressure on the inner wrist, either with your other hand or through a specially designed wristband. Acupressure can be started before or during travel. The data on the effectiveness of acupressure is mixed, with some research suggesting significant improvement in motion sickness symptoms while some research shows no benefit at all.

Motion sickness is a common condition that can occur in a number of situations where your brain cannot make sense of signals it’s receiving from the body while it’s in motion. Fortunately, there are a number of effective over-the-counter, prescription and even alternative remedies to help with the symptoms of motion sickness. Speak with your healthcare provider before taking any medications or herbal supplements.

Published June 2022.

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