Motion Sickness: Ultimate guide – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is the general term used to describe the nausea symptoms caused by repeated movements when you’re travelling, such as going over bumps in a car or moving up and down in a boat.

Motion sickness can also occur on fairground rides, while playing video games or using Virtual Reality headsets.

Many of us have experienced motion sickness at some point in our lives. In fact, one in three people are considered ‘highly susceptible’ to the condition and pretty much everyone is susceptible to it if there are significant amounts of motion!1


What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

Motion sickness symptoms include dizziness, feeling cold, feeling weak, headaches, nausea, pale skin, sweating.

Two little girls looking out of the window on an aeroplane

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness is usually caused by movements experienced when travelling by car, plane, train or boat. The feeling of motion sickness happens when our eyes tell our brains that we’re not moving but our inner ears sense motion and the mismatch of information in the brain causes the sick feeling.

This happens in a place in the body called the vestibular system which coordinates balance and passes signals from the inner ear to the brain. So, when we read a book while travelling or are inside a windowless cabin on a boat, our eyes think we’re stationary, but our inner ear senses the movement of the car, plane, train or boat and we start to feel motion sick.


Who can suffer from motion sickness?

Motion sickness can affect more people than others, and it is unclear why this is.


Children under the age of age two are said to be almost immune to the feeling of motion sickness. Some children do become more susceptible as they get older.


Many are known to grow out of it altogether.


So, while your little ones may grow out of discomfort whilst travelling, there are still steps you can take to reduce the feeling of motion sickness.


Why am I prone to motion sickness?

Whether it’s you or your child or another family member prone to travel sickness, it’s unpleasant and it can be upsetting, particularly for youngsters.

To be fair it’s not fun whatever age you are and can make you a little anxious about a journey – or a day at the theme park!

It’s not fully understood why some people are more susceptible than others.

It’s more common in children aged two to 12 – babies rarely suffer from it* – and women, especially during pregnancy or menstruation which may be linked to fluctuating oestrogen levels.2

Those who suffer from migraines appear more likely to suffer from motion sickness, there’s even been studies into whether it’s a genetic or inherited condition.1

How to stop motion sickness


Kwells is here to try and help everyone to travel happier and with over 70 years of expertise in providing over-the-counter travel sickness remedies, we know more than a thing or two about trying to prevent it.


First and foremost, motion sickness shouldn’t stop you from travelling, going on adventures and doing the things you enjoy. Depending on how you’re getting to your destination – or even if you’re just staying put with your VR gaming headset. There are things you can try to prevent or relieve the symptoms of motion sickness:


If you’re traveling in a car, boat, plane or train it’s best to be prepared with bags, wipes, etc – just in case.


Eating a light, carb-based food like cereals a couple of hours before a journey can help to reduce car sickness, seasickness, airsickness or train motion sickness.4


Plan some breaks into your car journey to get some fresh air or go for a short walk and take plenty of cold water to drink.4


Sitting in the front of a car, over the wing of a plane or in the middle of a boat helps to keep the motion you experience to a minimum.4


Closing your eyes can help to reduce the sensory signals to the brain – sleeping is even better if you can.4


There are several things to avoid, reading being the most obvious, but an audiobook, podcast or music is a good way to distract the brain away from those motion signals.4


Don’t be tempted to eat too much before a journey and try to steer clear of fatty or spicy food.4


Looking ahead at the road – a driver’s eye view if you like, as drivers are less likely to get motion sickness – or looking at the horizon can also help.4

two women playing video games

Motion sickness and gaming

Motion sickness is an unfortunate side effect for some VR gamers and one that headset manufacturers are constantly looking to fix.

Motion sickness while VR gaming is caused by the same sensory mismatch – you’re standing still but the virtual environment is moving around you.

It’s the lag time or ‘latency’ in the game – which is the time it takes for movement to register on the headset display – which is thought to cause the brain to receive confusing signals.

VR Motion Sickness


To reduce the risk of VR gaming motion sickness try playing for shorter periods of 15-30 minutes and build up gradually. Take regular breaks, stepping outside for fresh air or keep the room cool by opening a window. Try sitting down to restrict your movements and therefore minimise disorientation.


Ever felt nauseous or lightheaded while scrolling away on your phone or staring a computer screen for too long? This is known as cybersickness and while it’s not the same as VR gaming sickness in that physical movement isn’t involved, a moving screen can still cause the same sensory mismatch. Try to take a break and get some fresh air and refreshment to relieve the symptoms.3

Motion sickness on rollercoasters

As kids we queued for hours and clamoured to get on the fastest rides and the highest rollercoasters. By the time our own children are big enough we can be a little less keen and a lot queasier. That doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the family fun though – following similar advice given for motion sickness while travelling, we may still be able to scream to go faster with the best of them!

Before you take on the high, lows, ups and downs of the theme park, try eating a light, carb-based meal an hour or two beforehand – it’s best to avoid the temptation of fairground burgers vans! Try to pick a seat in the most stable part of the ride or carriage, usually the middle.


Motion sickness tablets

Tablets, such as Kwells travel sickness tablets, can help to relieve symptoms of motion sickness.

Our motion sickness tablets contain Hyoscine Hydrobromide 300mcg which temporarily reduces the effect of movement on the balance organs of the inner ear and the nerves responsible for nausea.

If you have been prescribed motion sickness medication by your doctor, always follow any instructions they may have given you.

*Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before  taking any medicine in pregnancy.*

Motion sickness tablets are available at your local pharmacy or online.

View our range of motion sickness tablets

Kwells travel sickness tablets

Kwells 300 microgram tablets. For the prevention of travel sickness, suitable for adults and children aged 10+. Contains Hyoscine Hydrobromide 300 microgram. Kwells Kids 150 microgram tablets. For the prevention of travel sickness, suitable for children aged 4+. Contains Hyoscine Hydrobromide 150 microgram. Always read the label