Airsickness: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

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Airsickness: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Airsickness, also known as motion sickness, is a common condition that can affect travelers of all ages. It is caused by the conflicting signals that the brain receives from the eyes, inner ear, and other sensory organs, leading to feelings of nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

Causes of Airsickness

The exact cause of air sickness is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the sensory mismatch that occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from different parts of the body.

  • Eyes: When the eyes see the cabin of an aircraft moving, the brain interprets this as movement.
  • Inner ear: The inner ear, which contains fluid-filled canals, detects changes in head movement. In an aircraft, the acceleration and turns can cause the fluid in the canals to shift, which can lead to feelings of disorientation and nausea.
  • Other sensory organs: Other sensory organs, such as the skin and muscles, can also provide information about movement. If these signals conflict with those from the eyes and inner ear, it can further contribute to air sickness.

Certain factors can increase the risk of air sickness, including:

  • History of motion sickness: People who have experienced motion sickness in the past are more likely to experience it again.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety and stress can worsen air sickness symptoms.
  • Female gender: Women are more likely to experience air sickness than men.
  • Certain medications: Some medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, can increase the risk of air sickness.
  • Age: Children and pregnant women are more susceptible to air sickness.

Symptoms of Airsickness

The symptoms of air sickness can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo (a spinning sensation)
  • Sweating
  • Cold sweats
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

Remedies for Airsickness

There are several effective remedies that can help prevent or treat air sickness:

  • Over-the-counter medications: Antihistamines, such as meclizine and dimenhydrinate, can block the action of histamine, a substance in the body that can contribute to nausea. Other medications, such as scopolamine, are available by prescription and are highly effective in preventing air sickness.
  • Prescription medications: If over-the-counter medications are not effective, a doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as promethazine or ondansetron. These medications may have side effects, such as drowsiness, so they should be used with caution.
  • Behavioral techniques: Certain behavioral techniques can help reduce air sickness symptoms:
    • Sit in the front of the aircraft: The air is more stable in the front of the aircraft, which can reduce motion cues.
    • Look at a fixed object outside the window: Focusing on a distant object can help reduce the conflicting signals being sent to the brain.
    • Avoid reading or watching movies: Reading or watching movies can further stimulate the senses and worsen air sickness.
    • Close your eyes: Closing your eyes can help block out visual cues that can contribute to air sickness.
  • Natural remedies: Some natural remedies may help reduce air sickness symptoms, including:
    • Ginger: Ginger has anti-nausea properties and may be effective in preventing or treating air sickness.
    • Acupressure: Applying pressure to certain points on the body, such as the inner wrist, may help relieve nausea.
    • Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has calming effects and may help reduce anxiety and nausea.

Severe Airsickness Management

In severe cases of air sickness, where vomiting and dehydration are persistent, intravenous fluids and medications may be necessary to restore hydration and relieve symptoms. In rare cases, a procedure called a labyrinthine neurectomy may be performed to permanently reduce symptoms.


Air sickness is a common condition that can significantly impact the enjoyment and comfort of travel. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and effective remedies, individuals can reduce the risk of air sickness and minimize its impact. If air sickness symptoms are severe or persistent, it is important to consult a doctor for evaluation and appropriate treatment options.

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