Published Jan 25, 2024

How long does motion sickness last?

Jake Bissaro
Written by
Jake Bissaro
Dr. Sudip Bose
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sudip Bose
A color photograph of a hand in shadow pressing fingers against an airplane window with a blue sky and sunlight streaming in.
Published Jan 25, 2024

Key Points: 

  1. Motion sickness is a condition characterized by feelings of nausea and dizziness. It stems from a disconnect between your brain and body. 
  2. The condition affects everyone differently. But symptoms usually go away within a day. 
  3. For those regularly affected, over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription medications can help prevent symptoms or lessen their severity. 

Most of us can relate. You’re on your favorite ride or en route to a beloved destination. Suddenly, you feel dizzy, lightheaded or sick to your stomach. Great.

People often experience motion sickness when traveling by car, plane or train—or when playing video games.

Here’s what to know about how long symptoms last. Plus, how you can get quality online care and motion sickness treatment through a $15 Dr. B consultation.

What is the cause of motion sickness?

Motion sickness happens when the brain can’t process conflicting signals from the inner ears, eyes, joints and muscles. For example, the eyes see cars passing by, but the muscles sense that the body is sitting still.

The most common symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. It typically begins with a queasy feeling and increased salivation and may progress to nausea and vomiting.

Other possible side effects include:

  • Decreased sense of balance
  • Headache
  • Hyperventilation
  • Excessive sweating

Is motion sickness genetic?

Women and children ages 2 to 12 are more likely to experience motion sickness—but as many as one in three people are highly susceptible to it.

No evidence suggests a clear inheritance pattern. But the condition tends to cluster in families. And researchers have discovered genetic factors involving the eye, ear and balance development that can cause signals from these areas to conflict in the brain.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being pregnant
  • Taking birth control
  • Menstruation
  • Inner ear conditions
  • Parkinson’s disease

Research also shows that children and adults can get motion sickness while gaming on consoles like Xbox or PlayStation. Smartphones, Zoom meetings and virtual reality (VR devices) can also trigger cybersickness or VR-simulator sickness.

How long does motion sickness last?

For most people, symptoms usually improve when the movement stops or the body adjusts to it. Once you’ve eliminated the trigger, the symptoms usually go away completely within 24 hours.

How can I prevent nausea and vomiting?

A few shifts to your space, attention and diet can help prevent or reduce symptom flares. These include watching out for signs of dehydration, eating foods that aren’t too taxing on your body and looking for stationary (unmoving) objects in your direct field of view.

  • Choose the front seat of the car or bus
  • Sit in the window seat of a plane
  • Focus on the horizon or a stationary object ahead of you
  • Roll down a window or open an air vent to get more fresh air
  • Shut your eyes or lie down
  • Use your fingers to relax motion sickness pressure points like the inside of your wrist or the center of your foot
  • Eat small meals and avoid eating heavy foods and alcohol before travel
  • Drink a glass of water or ginger ale (Ginger can prevent and treat nausea and other symptoms.)

What is the most effective motion sickness medicine?

Antihistamines block the H1 histamine receptors that contribute to the brain’s confused response. While often effective, these over-the-counter (OTC) products aren’t evaluated by the FDA. So talk to your doctor or provider before trying any new treatments—even those available OTC.

Some popular OTC antihistamines include:

  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
  • Promethazine (Phenergan)
  • Cyclizine (Marezine)

Of prescription treatments, Scopolamine (Transderm Scop) is the most commonly prescribed. Available as a motion sickness patch, this anticholinergic blocks the chemical acetylcholine in the brain. It prevents symptoms while being less likely to cause side effects like drowsiness, blurred vision or dizziness compared to other treatments.

Banner advertising Dr. B's services for motion sickness treatments

How to get a motion sickness pill online

Looking for the best motion sickness medicine for a cruise? Want to enjoy a roller coaster without feeling sick to your stomach? Whether you’re traveling or just want to enjoy a leisurely drive, the right treatment can keep symptoms at bay. And you can get these treatments with a convenient $15 online medical consultation from Dr. B.

To start, fill out a short online health assessment about your health history and current condition. Dr. B will connect you with a licensed medical provider. If appropriate, they’ll send a prescription to your pharmacy within three business hours.

Sources

Chang, C.H., et al. (2012). Postural activity and motion sickness during video game play in children and adults. Experimental Brain Research.

Han-Chung Lien, H.C., et al. (2003). Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection. American Journal Of Physiology-Gastrointestinal And Liver Physiology.

Hromatka, B.S., et al. (2015). Genetic variants associated with motion sickness point to roles for inner ear development, neurological processes and glucose homeostasis. Human Molecular Genetics.

Karrim, N., et al. (2022). Antihistamines for motion sickness. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews.

Kim, Y.S., et al. (2022). Effects of cybersickness caused by head-mounted display–based virtual reality on physiological responses: cross-sectional study. JMIR Serious Games.

Leung, A.K.C., et al. (2019). Motion sickness: an overview. Drugs In Context.

Park, A., et al. (1999). Gender differences in motion sickness history and susceptibility to optokinetic rotation-induced motion sickness. Aviation Space And Environmental Medicine.

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