Motion sickness and how to prevent it

Monday April 6 2020


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I have to always bring my mother from the village to Kampala for treatment but whenever she travels, she vomits. What can I do? Amachi

Dear Amachi,
A number of people, especially children ( two to 12-years-old), pregnant women or people who suffer from migraines, while traveling by car, boat, plane or train may get giddy, nauseated or even vomit in what is called motion sickness.

Motion is sensed by the brain through different parts of the body including the inner ear, the eyes, skin pressure receptors, muscle and joint sensory receptors.

When one is walking, the sensors report the same movement to the brain. When travelling, however, the motion reported by different motion sensors may not be the same, hence the brain receiving conflicting messages resulting in the brain mistaking one to have taken poison requiring it to be expelled by all means hence the vomiting.

Vomiting may be associated with other symptoms including dizziness and headache among others depending on its severity. Standing by the lakeside and looking at the water waves also gives the same conflict hence the associated dizziness and feeling like falling into the lake.

Motion sickness seems to run in families and may ease the more one travels.


Looking at the horizon when traveling, keeping eyes closed and napping, chewing say sugar free chewing gum or ginger, allowing in fresh air, sitting in the front seat, avoiding reading while travelling, avoiding eating lots of food or drinking alcohol before or during travel and avoiding watching or talking to another traveller who is having motion sickness can help prevent it.

There are drugs taken before travel that can help but will require to be taken following proper diagnosis by a doctor.