Motion sickness causes and treatment

Motion sickness is a common syndrome that occurs upon exposure to certain types of motion. It is thought to be caused by conflict between the vestibular, visual, and other proprioceptive systems. Although nausea is the hallmark symptom, it is often preceded by stomach awareness, malaise, drowsiness, and irritability. Motion sickness occurs when your brain can’t make sense of information sent from your eyes, ears and body. Lots of motion — in a car, airplane, boat, or even an amusement park ride — can make you feel queasy, clammy or sick to your stomach. Some people vomit. Being carsick, seasick or airsick is motion sickness.

Motion sickness is a sick feeling triggered by movement. It occurs in cars, buses, trains, planes, or boats. It can occur on amusement rides or virtual reality experiences. Seeing the movement of others or things can trigger it. Motion sickness is not life-threatening. However, it can make traveling unpleasant. Planning ahead helps prevent, avoid, or reduce the effects. Other motion sickness triggers include:

Being in the back seat of a car unable to see the horizon
Reading in the car
Not getting enough air in the car

Motion sickness is common in older people, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 5 and 12. Also, it’s common in people who have migraine headaches. It may be genetic. Once the motion stops, the motion sickness stops. You’ll gradually feel better. In rare cases, motion sickness is triggered by a problem with your inner ear. This could be due to fluid buildup or an ear infection. Parkinson’s disease can also cause motion sickness.

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Your brain receives signals from motion-sensing parts of your body: your eyes, inner ears, muscles and joints. When these parts send conflicting information, your brain doesn’t know whether you’re stationary or moving. Your brain’s confused reaction makes you feel sick.

For example, when riding in a car, your:

Eyes see trees passing by and register movement.
Inner ears sense movement.
Muscles and joints sense that your body is sitting still.
Brain senses a disconnect among these messages.

Many actions can trigger motion sicknesss, such as:

Amusement park rides and virtual reality experiences.
Reading while in motion.
Riding in a boat, car, bus, train or plane.
Video games and movies.

Motion sicknesss

When you are in a vehicle that moves continuously with relatively slow and prolonged motion, the organ of balance in your inner ear may be affected, causing motion sicknesss. Motion sicknesss is likely to happen if you are also worried about having an attack, if the air is stuffy or filled with fumes, or if you have just eaten a big meal. Looking at food can make motion sicknesss worse. People who suffer from migraines may also be more susceptible to motion sickness.

In motion sicknesss, a discrepancy exists between the motion that is expected to occur and the actual motion sensed by the organ of balance in the inner ear. These unexpected signals translate into a confused message by the brain, leading to the development of symptoms.

Generally, symptoms disappear once the brain adapts to the new pattern of motion. Two neurotransmitters (chemicals that relay messages to cells within the brain) – acetylcholine and dopamine – are thought to play an important role in causing motion sicknesss.

There are several medications available to manage motion sicknesss. These medications are available in various forms, including oral tablets, rectal suppositories, and transdermal patches.

Dimenhydrinate* is an antihistamine available in pharmacies without a prescription. It works best when taken 30 minutes to an hour before a journey. The medication scopolamine is long-acting and works best for longer journeys. Scopolamine is a patch that should be applied 12 hours before travelling.

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