Travel, or motion, sickness is a condition where people feel sick, vomit or feel dizzy when travelling.
Travel sickness can be reduced or even prevented by taking certain medicines before travelling.
Travel sickness can happen during any form of travel but common examples include car or sea travel. You can also get it on train journeys or planes as well as on fairground rides and swings. You can even get it when you aren’t moving at all, such as when taking part in virtual reality games in amusement parks.
If you have travel sickness you may have several symptoms, including:
- feeling sick
- a headache
- looking pale
- rapid breathing
Your symptoms will get better when the motion stops
The exact reasons why you may develop travel sickness aren’t fully understood at present. However, research suggests that it’s caused by movements when travelling, such as tilting and shaking, which can confuse your brain.
Normally, your vestibular system, which is located in your inner ear, keeps track of your body, head and eye movements. This helps you to change position and control your balance. However, during travel, the motion your vestibular system senses doesn’t match what you see. This conflict between the senses is thought to cause travel sickness.
Anyone can get travel sickness and no one knows why some people are more sensitive than others. People who are at higher risk of getting it include:
- children between the age of 2 and 12
- women – especially when pregnant
- people who get migraines
There are many over-the-counter medicines available from a pharmacy.
- Hyoscine hydrobromide
Hyoscine hydrobromide is one of the most effective medicines for preventing travel sickness. It works by blocking the confusing nerve signals from your vestibular system. You can buy hyoscine tablets (eg buscopan, bispanol) over-the-counter at a pharmacy. You need to take them about 30 minutes before you travel and their effect lasts for about six hours.
Hyoscine may cause side-effects such as a dry mouth, drowsiness, blurry vision and dizziness.
Antihistamines (eg cetirizine and cyclizine) can help reduce travel sickness. You need to take antihistamines about two hours before you travel. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness.
Some people find that wearing bands that apply pressure onto your wrist – at an acupuncture point called P6 – can help with travel sickness.
Ginger is a traditional herbal remedy for travel sickness.
As well as the methods listed under our treatment section, there are several things you can do to help prevent travel sickness.
- Your position can affect your chances of getting travel sickness – wherever possible, drive a car instead of being a passenger, sit in the front seat of a car or bus, sit over the wing in a plane, or sit in the centre of a ship or on the upper deck.
- Keep your eyes fixed on the horizon.
- Keep your head still.
- Don’t read – try listening to story tapes instead.
- Open a window to let fresh air in.
- Don’t smoke before or while travelling.
- Don’t drink alcohol before or while travelling.
- Try to distract yourself – play travel games or listen to music.