Mercy's Dr. Susan Besser Talks About How to Cope With Motion Sickness During Holiday Travel

December 6, 2017
Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea - Overlea, MD

Dr. Susan Besser, responding to a query from Reader’s Digest, responded to questions for a story concerning “Why Do We Get Motion Sickness?” Dr. Besser is a primary care provider specializing in Family Medicine and sees patients at Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea.

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is a sensation of nausea or dizziness caused by motion- usually when traveling in a vehicle.

What causes motion sickness?

The body uses multiple sensory organs to perceive body position and motion. When the signals from the various sensory areas don’t match, the brain gets mixed signals which causes the symptoms. The sensory areas are the following: the eyes (visual cues are important to determine body position); the inner ear (inside the inner ear are semicircular canals, fluid filled chambers with a small bubble in each one, it sort of looks like a leveler used to measure whether your pictures are straight); and proprioception receptors on the bottom of the feet (position sensors).

How do you avoid motion sickness?

There are medications one can take to avoid motion sickness, if one has a history of motion sickness. Speak with your doctor about what medication is right for you. You can also train yourself over time (with help from a therapist) to limit or eliminate your reactions to movement. 

How can you stop motion sickness when it is in progress?

If you find yourself feeling ill, try to stop moving if possible, but if not, try to limit the stimulus from the outside world. Visually focus on one thing so your eyes don’t move as much, hold your head still so your inner ear isn’t jostled. 

Why do some people get motion sickness while others don’t?

There is no good answer for that other than some people’s sensory mechanism is more sensitive than others, so they have an increased awareness of movement.

Susan L Besser, M.D., Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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