Motion Sickness: Why We Get It While Others Don’t And What To Do About It

By Divya G January 2, 2024

Motion sickness, officially known as kinetosis, can turn a scenic drive or boat ride into an unpleasant experience for both kids and adults. Driven by conflicting signals from the eyes, inner ear, and sensory nerves, motion sickness arises when the brain receives mixed messages about movement.

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Neurologist Timothy Hain explains that prolonged discord among these signals triggers the dizzying sensations associated with motion sickness.

But why do some people get it while others don’t?

The reason why some people struggle with motion sickness while others remain unaffected remains a scientific enigma. Although a clear inheritance pattern is elusive, primary care physician Susan Besser notes that motion sickness often runs in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Some research suggests that sensitivity to motion may be acquired or eliminated over time, as seen in the case of children outgrowing car sickness. The shared characteristic among these is the dissonance between the body’s expectations and its real-time experiences.

What to do if you struggle with it

For those seeking relief from motion sickness, adopting specific strategies can make a significant difference. One tactic involves assuming the driver’s seat, or riding shotgun, a privilege that allows individuals to anticipate movements, creating a more accurate internal estimate and reducing dependency on external senses. Passengers can enhance their experience by sitting in the front seat, maintaining focus on the road to align visual and sensory perceptions.

To mitigate the sensory conflict causing motion sickness, Dr. Hain suggests looking at a fixed point on the horizon, such as a tree. This technique helps synchronize information received by the ears and eyes, minimizing the disorienting effects of motion.

For those in need of additional assistance, over-the-counter meclizine or prescription scopolamine patches can reduce inner-ear sensitivity. While scopolamine patches are generally effective, they are not suitable for chronic use due to the risk of addiction. Dr. Hain recommends cautious use, especially in children under 12, to avoid potential side effects.

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In conclusion, understanding the origins of motion sickness and adopting proactive measures can empower individuals to navigate their journeys with greater comfort. By addressing the sensory conflict at the heart of kinetosis, individuals can transform their travel experiences from queasy to enjoyable.