Motion Sickness

Updated: Nov 10, 2017
  • Author: Andrew Brainard, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Motion sickness is an unpleasant condition that occurs when persons are subjected to motion or the perception of motion. It results in the common symptoms of nausea, nonvertiginous dizziness, and malaise. It is generally considered to be of physiological origin. Nearly all individuals experience it if exposed to enough motion stimuli.

Although the motion associated with travel is the most commonly reported form of the syndrome, it has other names with slightly different characteristics. These similar conditions have been called sea sickness, travel sickness, space sickness, and cybersickness.

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Pathophysiology

The brain estimates motion based on the combined input from vestibular, visual, and proprioceptive receptors. Motion sickness most likley occurs when the stimuli applied to these receptors appear to be in conflict. This apparent conflict causes more severe symptoms when the patient is passively moved at certain frequencies. It is much less common during active movements such as walking or swimming.

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Prevalence

Nearly all people experience motion sickness if given a strong enough motion stimuli. In many typical conditions, such as on cruise ships, the prevalence ranges from 3-60%, depending on the study. [1, 2, 3]

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Mortality/Morbidity

Motion sickness results in mortality and/or morbidity very rarely. Mortality and morbidity most commonly results from falls but can also result from a combination with other travel, recreational, or occupational hazards.

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Race

Two small studies have reported an association between Chinese ethnicity and increased susceptibility to motion sickness. [4, 5]

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Sex

Several studies show that females report increased frequency and severity of symptoms and pregnant women are much more susceptible to motion sickness. [6]

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Age

Persons under 2 years rarely show signs and symptoms of motion sickness. Children between 3 and 12 years may have the highest incidence, and elderly people seem to have reduced susceptibility.

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