Problem

Motion sickness

Other Names:
Travel sickness
Kinetosis
Seasickness
Car sickness
Air sickness
Space sickness
Motion maladaption syndrome
Nature:

Motion sickness is a natural response to conflicting perceptions of motion by the body's sensory receptors (visual, vestibular and body proprioceptors). Discord in the central nervous system arises particularly from the eyes and inner ear when their positional signals mismatch those that are normally expected.  Motion sickness can also be induced when the pattern of motion differs from that previously experienced, or in the absence of expected motion, or viewing a very large screen where the viewer is not actually moving. Only those without a functioning vestibular apparatus of the inner ear are truly immune.

The development of symptoms follows an orderly sequence that varies with the intensity of the stimulus and the susceptibility of the individual. The initial symptom is usually vague discomfort around the upper abdomen ("stomach awareness"), which is followed by nausea and increasing malaise. The face or area around the mouth becomes pale and general sweating begins. With rapid worsening of symptoms ("avalanche syndrome") there can be increased salivation, feelings of body warmth, lightheadedness and often depression and apathy. Vomiting typically follows. Additional symptoms are frequent, but more variable. These include belching and flatulence, hyperventilation, sighing and yawning, headache, tightness around the forehead or a "buzzing" sensation, drowsiness, lethargy and somnolence, panic or confusion. The lethargy, fatigue, and drowsiness can persist after the stimulus stops and nausea lessens.

 

Incidence:

Anyone can suffer from motion or travel sickness, but some people are particularly sensitive to it. Twin studies have shown that there is a genetic component to the condition.  Infants below the age of 2 years are rarely affected, but with maturation, susceptibility increases rapidly to reach a peak between 4 to 12 years. Thereafter, susceptibility falls progressively so that the elderly (60 years) are relatively immune. In any age group, females are more sensitive than males.

Boat travel is most likely to cause motion sickness, followed by travel by air, car, and train. The incidence of motion sickness may be illustrated by the following examples: 98% of occupants of life rafts in rough seas vomit; 60% of student aircrew suffer from air sickness (and in 15% it is of sufficient severity to interfere with flying training), but less than 0.5% of passengers in civil aircraft are affected.  Over time, there is a tendency to adapt ("to get one's sea legs"). For most individuals this occurs by 2 to 3 days, although about 5% are said not to adapt and remain symptomatic if the stimulus persists. Returning to stable circumstances, as in returning to shore, can trigger an exacerbation, but this is usually shorter because readaptation is quicker.

Virtual-reality gamers and drone pilots using VR headsets or large screens can experience ‘simulator sickness’. This new phenomenon – also known as cybersickness – creates conflicting brain and body messaging, just like any other form of motion sickness. Your eyes might say you’re flying through clouds in a virtual world but your body says you’re sitting on the couch.

As an indication of the scale of this common problem, the market for travel sickness remedies in the UK in 1986 was £3.3 million.

Virtual-reality gamers and drone pilots using VR headsets or large screens can experience ‘simulator sickness’. This new phenomenon – also known as cybersickness – creates conflicting brain and body messaging, just like any other form of motion sickness. Your eyes might say you’re flying through clouds in a virtual world but your body says you’re sitting on the couch.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 13: Climate Action
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 09:31 CEST