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
Other than that, no issues. I've been on planes, buses, trains, cars, trucks, speedboats and tubing adventures, and a few ferry rides (granted I haven't been lucky enough to go way out in the ocean, I wish I had. I adore water and the ocean!) without any poor effects. Hell I was the only person on a longer ferry ride (4 hours I think) who was up and running the entire time. I kept running into other kids sitting in the hall and people shakily drinking water and soda everywhere.
I routinely spin around and somersault-roll and try to get dizzy as much as I can, and I still don't get any bad effects unless I am already compromised with an illness.
Reading about Rita I wonder if perhaps she was born with a malfunction of her vestibular system.
Other considerations: I used to have a lot of ear infections when I was an infant/small child. I have terrible balance, but it doesn't keep me from being able to do anything that just about anyone else can do, example: skiing is a challenge for me, but I can do it, hiking mountain trails without trekking poles is difficult, but I'm a marathon runner and I'm just usually the first person to fall over when balance is an issue. That said, I'm super good at spatial relations (99 percentile when tested in high school), and I'm good at depth perception. I don't know which of these things might be related and which things aren't.
Oh, and I can read all day in the back of a bus on a super windy mountain road. I am very healthy, I am very fit, and other than the balance issue I already told you about, have no real health issues.
My husband has EXCELLENT balance, he is a "mountain goat" and can scramble up any rocky, bouldery hill while he pulls me up and keeps me from falling over. And he has TERRIBLE motion sickness at the drop of a hat. I will watch him turn green in front of me when we go out in boats (we live near the coast and he loves to fish).
So, is there a connection?
I'd just thought I'd let you know my own story.
I don't have any disorders that I know about, so the disorder thing is most likely bullshit. It is about the psych of the brain I think. It is the same with alcohol, it's very hard for me to get drunk. Not that I'm complaining. It has to be something with genes.
I do not have any brain damage or disease. I have not any illnesses of the ear, and I have good hearing and excellent eye vision. I know that '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. But my case is I never try to fight with it, I don't need to. Instead I am very much enjoying it. I was wondering if you've come across someone similar. If this is very unusual, whether it has any research value? I just don't get the feeling or understand when I saw my friends that suffer from different kinds of motion sickness when they travel with me. So if I can help I would like to cooperate with any experiment and study.
I've been fortunate in my life to have experienced several methods of what cause people to get sick and yet do not make me sick. I love to ride roller coasters (the crazier the loops, the better!), the tilt-a-wheel type rides, anything spinney really. I've never gotten motion sick in a car as either the driver or passenger and in fact often read or play video games in the car if I'm not the one driving. I've been out to sea several times for extended periods, and in fact have taken the sailing merit badge in scouting which involved quite a few crazy stunts that made others hurl their lunches. Never me. I can fly on planes and can always tell when the plane is turning, but never ever get sick. Video games have never made me sick either no matter the type of head bob. 3D movies? A-OK! There was some research about people who sway much more likely to get motion sick. My wife gets annoyed at me because I sway, always have.
With that said, there are things that can make me dizzy. Spinning in a chair long enough will do it, some Virtual Reality apps can do it to (going up a flight of stairs in virtual reality while not actually going up is very dizzying for me as an example)... but it doesn't make me sick. Dizziness is a FUN experience for me! Why? Who knows...
Maybe part of the clue to all this - I don't have the world's best sense of balance. Took me a bit to learn to ride a bike. Skiing, rollerblading, skating... can't do that, lose my balance and over I go. Ouch!
I want to learn to ride the Airwheel, and while I know that most people can learn to ride it over the weekend, it'll probably take me a couple weeks instead.
I don't have a good explanation as to why that's the case. I think it might have something to do with how I picture the motion in my mind's eye but I'm very uncertain. Feel free to post a message if you want to pick my brain.
3D movies and motion simulators are often associated with motion sickness as well, but I've never had a problem with them. I've been on helicopters, white water rafting, I am an avid roller coaster lover, and in my 41 years, I've never found any motion that was too intense or made me feel sick. I even read books in the car (passenger seat of course.) I feel bad for people who go on cruise ships but spend the entire first couple days feeling miserable or drowsy from meds, and I truly wish they could discover the secret to my immunity so they could share it with others, but it's not like I ever worked up to it or anything. I was just born that way, I guess.
My wife gets 3D sick, and I had her eat some ginger before dragging her to a 3D movie, and it actually helped her avoid getting sick, so there you go!
I also fall to those who had a lot of ear infections as a child. My hearing is good. My balance is still really good, many times better than others. Where I get clumsy or look like unbalanced it's when I don't/can't focus. I also have adult ADD what comes from childhood stress and made my brain neurologically to develop slightly different. That can't be changed (/fixed) but that isn't the same that I would have some brain damage, I just progress things differently - but might that make me immune? Or childhood epilepsy what did go away (and also wasn't from brain damage)?
Of course I haven't been in a fighter jet that is often ultimate test of motion sickness. In my case I probably would throw off because I have mechanical/chronical stomach problems - not because the motion sickness itself.
Might also be that it can be a real thing; there is people who are immune, but because it's minority and not a problem - it doesn't get enough attention.
Anyways I have never felt motion sick (unless you count getting a headache from bouncing on a trampoline or 4 wheel drive vehicle on rocky terrain), but I didn't realize it was too an abnormal extent until I went on my first marine biology scuba diving expedition in college. None of the group with me had gotten motion sick on the long drive/flight/boat trip to the site, but on one wavy day(15x15' swells) half the group got sick after only an hour in the rising and falling (painfully) swells. More striking, once we got in and started bobbing on the water everyone else got sick within seconds. We quickly dove and everyone seemed okay, but when we came up later, a little away from the boats, it was like witnessing a mass panic/race to get into the boats as we bobbed. Meanwhile I was feeling elated and didn't want to get out, but I had to succumb when everyone else was loaded up and in a hurry to get back on land.
One other note, people, especially my wife have noted, even been annoyed that not only do I not scream on amusement park rides, but typically even look bored, especially when they get to the part at the end where you're supposed to buy a picture of your screaming terror/joy/whatever together on the ride. I really only enjoy the spinning machine, free fall, and swinging ships anyways, the rest just seem slow and jarring...my pictures during those even are just an inertially flattened grin.
This cannot be because I just have a tough stomach or something, as I almost always throw up if I so much as see or smell someone else's vomit... On one side of my family everyone is prone to nausea, but the other parent and none of my siblings had ever experienced it as far as I know, though I'm the only one that so thoroughly enjoys significant ongoing motion. Although my child as an newborn and infant would only be consoled by a car ride with no stopping (common from what I've read) or a long series of alternating, brisk walks in my stroller.
Just recently, I was on a similar sized ship (100+ passengers) and crossed the Drake Passage (Antarctic waters) twice. This time, I didn't feel seasick at all, though I am older and lamer. I made a drill of looking outside portholes/windows, if I had trouble keeping my balance. I also made liberal use of my cane.
I also come from a family who has crossed oceans on many occasions--immigration, travel, military transport during war, and so on. So, I think part of the "anti-seasick" question is genetic, and part is an issue of making sure your eyes are seeing what your body and inner ear is sensing.
Unlike the others here my balance is top notch. I don't tend to fall, trip or anything like that. I do get dizzy when I get spun around. It takes a while though and I'm still functional and don't fall. I just can't walk in a straight line for a few moments while I get my bearings.
Like others, I do all the crazy stuff with no nausea. Unlike them, I have great balance and agility with all the common things they list as troubles. The best experiences I've ever had with this have to be VR action games, where they actually let you turn off the dozens of safety features and junk they put in to stop people from getting sick.
I just wish there was some way to teach them to just... not get sick. Then they could stop suffering all the time. :(