Everything you need to know about motion sickness medication
Motion sickness medications aim to prevent or relieve symptoms of nausea and dizziness caused by real movement or that you perceive when playing a video game.
Motion sickness can affect your stomach and your central nervous system. Medications for motion sickness include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. These can help prevent the symptoms or treat them when they occur.
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses the terms “women,” “men,” or both when discussing people assigned female or male at birth to reflect language that appears in source materials.
While gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body, you may need to consider how your personal circumstances will affect diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.
Causes and symptoms
Motion sickness can happen due to movement that can be real or perceived. You can develop motion sickness when you’re in motion, for example, traveling in a car, plane, boat, or train. But you can also have motion sickness while watching a movie or playing a video game.
Motion sickness happens when there’s a disconnect between what you see and what your inner ear feels, sending mixed messages to your brain.
This leads to symptoms of motion sickness, which include:
- feeling cold
- going pale
- sweating and cold sweats
Some people are more likely to experience motion sickness than others. For example, women tend to have motion sickness more than men, and motion sickness tends to affect children and pregnant people.
Several prescription medications can help prevent or treat motion sickness symptoms.
Promethazine (Phenergan) is an antihistamine that’s available by prescription. Promethazine can prevent motion sickness. It helps suppress the feelings of nausea and vomiting. It reduces the stimulation that signals your brain that you need to vomit.
For motion sickness, you can take a promethazine tablet 30 minutes to 1 hour before traveling. Promethazine tablets come in doses of 12.5–50 milligrams (mg). Talk with a healthcare professional about what’s the right dose for you.
Promethazine can cause side effects like dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, and blurred vision.
Promethazine is available in generic form and in brand names like Phenergan.
Scopolamine is a medication that blocks the substances that signal your brain to vomit. Doctors prescribe scopolamine to treat nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness.
Scopolamine is available as a patch in generic form and under the brand name Transderm Scop. To prevent motion sickness, place the patch behind your ear at least 4 hours before traveling. You can leave it there for up to 3 days.
The side effects of scopolamine include:
- dry mouth
Talk with a healthcare professional if you experience these adverse effects.
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You can buy OTC medications to help prevent motion sickness ahead of a trip or find relief from its symptoms.
Antihistamines like meclizine (Bonine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) can help reduce your inner ear’s ability to sense motion. These medications help block the substances that signal the part of your brain that controls the vomiting response.
These antihistamines are available in pill and liquid forms. You can take them 1–2 hours before traveling.
Some side effects include:
- blurred vision
- dry mouth
If these side effects become intolerable or OTC management is not easing symptoms of motion sickness, talk with a healthcare professional.
Natural ways to treat motion sickness and some tips you can follow to prevent it.
Some natural remedies to treat motion sickness include ginger and chamomile. For many years, people used ginger to prevent and relieve symptoms of motion sickness. A 2020 study confirms that ginger is effective in easing nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness.
Some tips that you can try to prevent and reduce the symptoms of motion sickness include:
- sitting in the front if you’re traveling by bus or car
- choosing a window seat on flights and trains
- drinking water and fluids
- avoiding alcohol and caffeine (if you drink)
- avoiding smoking (if you smoke)
- eating ginger candy or flavored lozenges
- resting and sleeping
Motion sickness occurs when there’s a disconnect between what your eyes see and what your inner ear feels. This disconnect can lead to symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
There are prescription and OTC medications that help prevent and relieve these symptoms. These include antihistamines (Dramamine, Benadryl, and promethazine) and anti-nausea patches.
Natural remedies like ginger can help ease motion sickness symptoms. Sitting in front of the car, staying hydrated, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine are some tips that may help you prevent symptoms of motion sickness.
Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.
- Casale J, et al. (2023). Physiology, vestibular system. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532978/
- Díaz-Artiles A, et al. (2017). The impact of oral promethazine on human whole-body motion perceptual thresholds. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532182/
- Dimenhydrinate. (2022). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a607046.html
- Karrim N, et al. (2017). Antihistamines for motion sickness. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483357/
- Motion sickness. (2022). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/motion-sickness
- Pereira Nunes C, et al. (2020). Clinical evaluation of the use of ginger extract in the preventive management of motion sickness. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0011393X20300175
- Riad M, et al. (2023). Scopolamine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554397
- Scopolamine transdermal patch. (2019). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682509.html
- Southard BT, et al. (2022). Promethazine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544361/
- Takov V, et al. (2023). Motion sickness. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539706/
- Travel and motion sickness: An expert weighs in on dramamine, ginger, and more. (2021). https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/travel-and-motion-sickness-an-expert-weighs-in-on-dramamine-ginger-and-more/2021/07