DuPage Medical Group doctor offers 5 tips to combat motion sickness

  • Dr. Amee Mehta, DuPage Medical Group Family Medicine Physician

    Dr. Amee Mehta, DuPage Medical Group Family Medicine Physician Courtesy of DuPage Medical Group

Updated 7/8/2021 2:39 PM

Summertime is often a season of traveling and exploration. Whether you're voyaging by car, train, plane or bus, there's no better feeling than finally reaching your destination. However, what if you or a loved one suddenly experience an episode of motion sickness -- do you know what to do?

Motion sickness can be described as a syndrome that occurs in response to perceived or real motion and sensory interactions. From nausea, cold sweats, dizziness, headaches, pale skin, difficulty concentrating to heavy breathing, motion sickness presents itself in various forms, affecting all individuals differently. Motion sickness happens because your brain receives signals sensing areas of the body like the eyes, inner ear, muscles and joints. When conflicting signals reach the brain from these parts, the brain is confused and doesn't know if you are moving or still, making you sick.


The threshold at which people experience symptoms varies, but certain factors may predispose you to motions sickness, such as children ages two-12 years old, pregnant women, those suffering from migraines, people taking birth controls, mood related medications, certain antibiotics and pain medications. Talk to your physician before changing any of your medications.

Here are simple tips to combat motion sickness, so you can enjoy your summer travels:

• Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon.

No matter your mode of transportation, when motion sickness symptoms strike, look straight ahead at a distant point, directly toward the horizon.

• Practice Relaxation Techniques.

Because motion sickness can stem from too much stimulation and tends to stop when the motion stops, it's recommended to avoid reading or playing on digital devices, as these can make symptoms worse. Instead, recline back in your chair, roll down the windows, breath in fresh air, smell mint, ginger or lavender and listen to soothing music. Changing your thoughts and distracting yourself can help too. Avoid thinking about or listening to others who are feeling the motion sickness.

• Care for Your Body.

Regardless if you have had a previous history of motion sickness or if you experience symptoms out of the blue, it's important to make smart choices and care for your body. Before traveling, ensure you get a good night's rest, stay hydrated and eat light, low fat, bland foods. Don't consume heavy meals, greasy and spicy foods, alcohol or smoking. Additionally, if able, keep an "emergency kit" on hand, consisting of a paper bag, light crackers, water, ginger ale and hard peppermint or ginger candies. Knowing that you have these items with you can reduce unnecessary stress and treat symptoms in the event you don't feel well.

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• Choose Your Seat Wisely, if Possible.

Seat positioning has a contributing role in preventing motion sickness. Here are some suggestions when it comes to picking your seat during your travels:

Car: Sit in the front seat. It can also be helpful to be the driver instead of the passenger because your gauge will be fixed, minimizing the conflicting sensory stimulus.

Boat: Sit in the middle of the boat on the upper deck.

Cruise Ship: Sit in the lower deck in the midship cabin.

Plane: Sit in a seat that is over the front edge of the plane/ wing section.

Bus or Train: Sit in forward-facing seats or window seats.

• Consult With Your Physician About Medication and Symptom Relief.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, it is OK to take the over-the-counter meds like Dramamine, Benadryl. Some medications can cause drowsiness and others are non-sedating. If possible, always connect with your doctor to determine what is appropriate for you as different medications might work in different situations. For example, Scopolamine is used as patches but may not be a good choice if you have certain conditions like glaucoma or heart failure. Another option for symptom relief is wearing acupressure wristbands in both hands.


If you have severe symptoms in the past, apart from environmental modifications, you can pretreat yourself with one-two grams of ginger unless you have an underlying medical condition that prevents you from taking it (from randomized controlled studies). You can also use over-the-counter medications 30 minutes before starting your trip.

If you have never had any prior history of motion sickness, or if symptoms don't stop soon after the motion ends, make sure to get evaluated by your physician for migraines or other similar conditions.

While motion sickness certainly isn't pleasant for anybody, it's manageable and shouldn't stop you from traveling and appreciating life's beauty. Stay positive and plan accordingly to ensure you can enjoy your trip ahead!

• Dr. Amee Mehta is a member of the DuPage Medical Group family medicine team, dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients of ages 2 years to seniors. From preventive care, routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunizations to screening tests, DMG's family medicine team provides personalized care so all individuals can maintain a healthy lifestyle. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a family medicine physician online, visit dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/family-medicine.