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Motion Sickness. AHF 2203 Puan Rosdalila Roslan. Overview. Motion sickness is a very common disturbance of the inner ear that is caused by repeated motion such as from the swell of the sea, the movement of a car, the motion of a plane in turbulent air, etc. .

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Motion Sickness

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Motion Sickness

AHF 2203

Puan Rosdalila Roslan


  • Motion sickness is a very common disturbance of the inner ear that is caused by repeated motion such as from the swell of the sea, the movement of a car, the motion of a plane in turbulent air, etc.

  • In the inner ear, motion sickness affects the sense of balance and equilibrium and, hence, the sense of spatial orientation.


  • Motion is sensed by the brain through three different pathways of the nervous system that send signals coming from the inner ear (sensing motion, acceleration, and gravity), the eyes (vision), and the deeper tissues of the body surface (proprioceptors).

  • When there is unintentional movement of the body, as occurs, the brain is not coordinating the input, and there is thought to be discoordination or conflict among the input from the three pathways.

  • It is hypothesized that the conflict among the inputs is responsible for motion sickness.

  • Without the motion-sensing organs of the inner ear, motion sickness does not occur, suggesting that the inner ear is critical for the development of motion sickness.

  • Motion sickness is more likely to occur with complex types of movement, especially movement that is slow or involves two different directions (for example, vertical and horizontal) at the same time.

Inner Ear Motion-Sensing Organ


The symptoms of motion sickness include:

  • nausea,

  • Paleness of the skin

  • Cold sweats

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Increased salivation

  • Fatigue

    Other common signs are sweating and a general feeling of discomfort and not feeling well.


  • Always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body and inner ears feel.

    • In a car, sit in the front seat and look at the distant scenery.

    • On a boat, go up on the deck and watch the motion of the horizon.

    • In an airplane, sit by the window and look outside.

    • Also, in a plane, choose a seat over the wings where the motion is minimized.

  • Do not read while traveling if you are subject to motion sickness, and do not sit in a seat facing backward.

  • Do not watch or talk to another traveler who is having motion sickness.

  • Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods that do not agree with you (immediately before and during your travel).

  • Take one of the varieties of motion sickness medicines before your travel begins, as recommended by your physician.

  • Eat light meals or snacks that are low in calories in the 24 hours before air travel.

  • Avoid salty foods and dairy products before air travel.

  • Turn the air vent flow toward your face.


  • Antihistamine medications are commonly used in the prevention and treatment of motion sickness. These medicines seem to prevent and treat the nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by motion sickness by calming the stimulation of the inner ear.

  • Another class of medications used to prevent motion sickness is represented by the scopolamine skin patch (Transderm Scop). This medicated skin patch is applied behind the ear at least four hours in advance of the motion activity. The medication is slowly absorbed directly into the underlying skin.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to lessen the anxiety that some people have just thinking about movement or motion sickness. During this therapy, people are exposed to a situation that causes motion sickness (such as a tilting, rotating chair) in a slow fashion until they experience some symptoms of motion sickness, but not until the symptoms become overwhelming. As they tolerate the movement more, they build confidence, reducing their anxiety.

  • Breathing Techniques

    Those who took slow, deep breaths had a significant reduction in symptoms of motion sickness compared to those who breathed normally or counted their breaths. Involuntary rapid and shallow breathing often exacerbates symptoms of motion sickness. While it makes sense that slow, deliberate breathing would help reduce anxiety associated with motion sickness.

Risk Factors

Common risk factors for motion sickness:

  • Riding in a car, boat, airplane, or space shuttle

  • Children ages 2 - 12 are most likely to get motion sickness.

  • Susceptibility to nausea or vomiting

  • Heightened level of fear or anxiety

  • Poor ventilation in the vehicle

  • Sitting in the back seat or where you cannot see out the window

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