General Motion Sickness Stories
Immune to Motion Sickness?
contributed by Rita
Is anyone truly immune to motion sickness, and if so how and why? It's a million dollar question, and one I often get asked...
Here's a comment e-mailed to me by a reader who appears to indeed be immune to motion sickness. I've added my thoughts on the subject below.
"I have a question: since you deal with motion sickness on your site, have you ever come across anyone who has never gotten motion sickness?
Thing is, I've never experienced it. I've been on boats, airplanes, cars, roller coasters, I can even spin for hours and not get dizzy. I've been spinning since I could walk (according to my mom). When on airplanes, I can never tell when we are sideways (I see it outside from the window), but I feel as though I'm always in a straight balanced position. I've been trying to look up more information on this online, but it's always on how to cure it. I was wondering if you've come across someone online or even friends with something similar?"
The Motion Sickness Guru replies
I was fascinated to read about the Rita's experiences. My first thought is: 'she is SO very lucky!', and my second thought is that yes, I have come across other similar cases, but mostly just in anecdotes ('I once knew this guy who never got seasick...'). There are also occasional cases of so-called immunity in medical and military reports.
On the other hand it's common to hear the 'experts' say that there's no such thing as immunity to motion sickness and that people who seemingly 'never get motion sickness' just have a higher tolerance than the rest of us. In other words, in the roughest of seas everyone gets sick. An article
by neurologist Dr. Timothy Hain cites a claim from an Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety that "nearly 100% of occupants of life rafts will vomit in rough seas. 60% of student aircrew members suffer from air sickness at some time during their training." It's interesting that the encyclopaedia hedges its bets with the 'nearly 100%', leaving room for a small number of people like Rita who really don't experience motion sickness under any circumstances.
Several sources (see Wikipedia
, in addition to the article mentioned above) state that people and animals without a functioning vestibular system are immune to motion sickness. The vestibular system is the part of the brain that organises and responds to sensory signals received from other parts of the body. So I assume that whereas anyone without a functioning vestibular system doesn't suffer from motion sickness, they would have other significant health issues. Similarly there are apparently several illnesses of the inner ear and brain that can result in an immunity to motion sickness.
It's also possibly that some people are able to develop immunity following a course of habituation (repeated exposure to the motion that makes them ill). The Bárány chair
is one such treatment used in the military. A more user-friendly option is the Puma Method
. However, Rita gives no indication that she has undergone any such treatment, and her immunity appears to be natural from birth.
Another thought is that there's definitely a strong psychological aspect to motion sickness. Therefore I wonder if Rita's immunity has become a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. Motion sickness is strongly associated with worry and anxiety (in other words, those who are worried that they will get sick usually do!). Rita, however, is convinced that she is immune to motion sickness. It may well be that this believe actually protects her.
Whatever the reason, I think everyone will agree that Rita is one lucky lady!
Are you, or is anyone you know, immune to motion sickness? If so, do let me know