Motion Sickness Medication
- OTC, Prescription (Rx), Brands, Dosage -
Although I'm a great advocate of treating motion sickness with natural remedies, treatments and behaviors, I know that for some people the best or even the only option may be some form of motion sickness medication.
I cannot stress enough that you should consult with your doctor or medical professional
before commencing any course of medication. Please also understand that I have no medical training, and take a moment to read my disclaimer
. Thank you!
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a medical condition and/or are currently taking other medications (both over the counter and/or prescription), it is especially important that you get professional medical advice prior to taking motion sickness medication. Don't self-medicate. You owe it to yourself not to take chances on this!
Motion Sickness Medications - Introduction
The first thing to say is that no motion sickness medication works for everyone. It is quite possible for a medication to be a 'miracle cure' for one person, and have little or no effect on another. Bear this in mind when listening to people's recommendations!
It's a similar situation with medication side effects
. Most motion sickness medications carry the possibility of side effects. These are mostly temporary, but are potentially very serious. Just because someone you know has found a certain medication effective and side effect free, doesn't mean that you will have the same experience of it.
Motion sickness medications generally work by blocking contradictory sensory messages from reaching the brain. Others work by subduing the action of the stomach. Most are taken orally, usually as pills or capsules, however there are also gel patches that are applied to the skin, and rectal suppositories. Suppositories may not be everyone's first choice, but don't dismiss them completely - they will work when you are vomiting and can't keep oral medication down.
With all medications, READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DOSAGE INSTRUCTIONS. Exceeding the maximum recommended dose can be fatal.
Read on for an overview of the major motion sickness medications. The Transderm-Scop patch is dealt with on its own page - see The Motion Sickness 'Patch' (Transderm-Scop)
Always bear in mind that there is a wide range of non-medicated options
for preventing motion sickness that can be used alongside medication
with complete safety. Those taking medication often opt to wear an acupressure wristband
or pack a supply of ginger
or other natural, herbal or homeopathic remedies
as a kind of insurance!
Finally, taking medicine doesn't mean that you should simply ignore the advice on my Basic "Dos and Don'ts"
page. Give your medication the best chance to prevent motion sickness by working with it, not against it!
Timing - When to start taking Motion Sickness Medication
Motion sickness medication is typically quite slow acting and you should therefore start taking it well before you expect to feel unwell. The instructions for many motion sickness medications recommend taking the first dose at least 30 minutes before exposure to motion, but in my experience a couple of hours is more like the time most people need for the drug to get into their system. Many people find they get best results from taking a first pill the night before travel, and a second just before departure. Certainly, if you wait until you feel sick you may have a miserable three or four hours until you start to get relief.
You might also consider starting to take the medication a full 24 hours prior to your trip / exposure to motion. This will enable you to find out how you react to the medication and what - if any - side effects
you will have. Then, if you find the side effects too much for you, you have time to stop or change the medication, or get last minute medical advice. In particular, this is recommended when using the Transderm-Scop patch
for the first time.
There are a limited number of medications marketed for motion sickness, however brand names differ from country to country, generic versions may be sold under different names again, and some of the branding is very confusing (e.g. there are medications called Travel Ease, Travel Eze and Trip Ease, but each of these contains different active ingredients). This makes any discussion of motion sickness medications rather complicated!
I've done my best to ensure the following information is correct, but there may be errors. Again, please consult with your doctor or medical professional before deciding on a course of medication. And if you do spot an error, or something that is less than clear, please let me know
NB: Rather than purchase a brand name medication, you'll save money by asking your pharmacist for the generic product. Exactly the same medication, just a different name!
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Motion Sickness Medications
Most over-the-counter motion sickness medications are antihistamines. Don't just take any antihistamine, however, as there are several that don't work at all for motion sickness! Antihistamines intended and marketed for use in preventing motion sickness include:
Marketed under a variety of names including Bonine
and, confusingly, Dramamine II
and Dramamine Less Drowsy
Meclizine is one of most the widely effective motion sickness medications, and many people experience excellent results, with little in the way of side effects. Bonine is a favorite for seasickness. It can, however, make you drowsy, affecting your reactions and causing your thinking to become a bit 'foggy'. Meclizine-based medications are generally not recommended for children under 12.
chewable tablets are also a Meclizine-based medication.
Marketed as Dramamine
Dimenhydrinate is another effective medication, but the side effects
can be severe for some people - in particular excessive and debilitating tiredness, and also blurred vision. Dimenhydrinate can make you more sensitive to the sun, so it is important to cover up or use a sunscreen. The 'Dramamine Less Drowsy' formula is actually Meclizine (see above), and may be a less effective medication for some people. Triptone is quite widely used by divers. Dimenhydrinate appears to be approved for use on children, but do get medical advice if you are at all unsure.
is a Dimenhydrinate-based medication.
Marketed as Marezine
, and confusingly as Bonine Kids
Cyclizine may have fewer side effects
than other popular motion sickness medications such as Bonine and Dramamine, and some people find that it makes them less drowsy. Cyclizine Chewable (Bonine for Kids) is approved for children from 6 years of age, although again, you are advised to take medical advice on this.
Marketed as Stugeron
(not "Sturgeon", which is the name of a fish), this is another motion sickness medication found in Europe and several other parts of the world, however it appears not to be approved for sale in the USA or Canada. As with most other motion sickness medications, it offers good results coupled with the possibility of some nasty side effects
. Many people report that Stugeron works better and does not make them as drowsy as other medications.
Those that have trouble taking pills and tablets may prefer a liquid such as Emetrol Cherry Flavor Syrup
(active ingredients: Dextrose, Levulose [Fructose] and Phosphoric Acid). Emetrol gives relief from nausea, settles the stomach and is safe for children. It appears to have little in the way of side effects.
Prescription (Rx) Motion Sickness Medications
Medications which are generally only available on prescription (Rx) include the following:
Scopolamine / Hyoscine
Marketed as Transderm-Scop
The Transderm-Scop is the famous 'patch'. It is widely used, works great for lots of people, and has nasty side effects for others. There's a lot to say about it, so I've given it its own page - see The Motion Sickness 'Patch' (Transderm-Scop)
. Scopace is the same medication in a lower-dose pill form.
An alternative name for Scopolamine (see above) and in low dosage available over-the-counter, marketed as Joy-Rides
(chewable fruit flavored tablets, 0.15mg), Kwells
(0.3mg) and Travel Calm
Marketed as Phenergan
Phenergan is a well known motion sickness medication, available in pill form, suppositories, and - most commonly onboard cruises - as an intermuscular shot / injection administered by a doctor. Like Scopolamine, Phenergan carries the risk of some serious side effects
. The primary side effect is drowsiness (some people find that it knocks them out for 24 hours or so), but it can also cause confusion, disorientation and dizziness. The Phenergan injection has been associated with gangrene, leading - in rare cases - to amputation. While some people find it very effective, the possible side effects make it less attractive.
tablets are a low dose (25mg) Promethazine medication.
Marketed as Valium
(and related medications).
Diazepam is not specifically intended for the treatment of motion sickness, however I've heard of people using Valium to prevent sea sickness. It is also helpful in treating MdDS (Mal du Debarquement/Disembarkment Syndrome or 'land sickness'
). NB: Diazepam is habit-forming, and it is crucial to consult a doctor
before taking this medication.