Medications to Prevent and Treat Motion Sickness

Be prepared with medications to treat your seasickness

In our last blog, we looked at strategies to prevent motion sickness. Fortunately, there are also various medications available which can help to prevent as well as treat symptoms. (Note: brand names listed are those that are available in the U.S.)

Over the Counter (OTC) Medications

Some OTC antihistamines are also commonly taken for motion sickness. They are more effective when used to prevent motion sickness rather than treating it. These include:

Dimenhydrinate: Sold as Dramamine® or Driminate® (Gravol® in Canada). May be used for pediatrics at the recommended doses.

Cyclizine: (Marezine®, Bonine For Kids®, Cyclivert®). Also safe for children.

Diphenhydramine: Commonly known as Benadryl®, it is available in a variety of products, including liquids for children. Probably the most sedating of the OTC antihistamines.

Meclizine: Formerly only available by prescription. Now, available over the counter as Antivert® or Bonine®. Also effective for treating vertigo. Not recommended for children.

Cinnarizine: (Stugeron®) Is an antihistamine worth mentioning, though it is not marketed in the U.S. or Canada. Several studies report cinnarizine as the most effective antihistamine with the fewest side effects. However, it has been known to cause Parkinson’s disease, especially in the elderly.

Only Available with a Prescription

Promethazine: (Phenergan®) Another type of antihistamine. Effective, but very sedating. A favorite of ship doctors, it helps you to sleep off your nausea.

Scopolamine: (Transderm-Scop®) Belongs to a different class of drugs called anticholinergics. It is most commonly prescribed as a transdermal (absorbed through the skin) patch that is applied behind the ear and only needs to be changed every 72 hours. Patches are particularly useful for long trips. Side effects and interactions with other medications may be more plentiful. Do not rub your eyes after applying a patch – it can cause dilation of one or both pupils.

All medications come with a trade-off, in terms of possible unwanted or harmful side effects. In medicine, we call it risk vs. benefit. Most of the drugs listed above can make you drowsy and reduce coordination. This is made worse when combined with alcohol. Avoid them when driving or operating machinery.

Always consult with your health care provider or travel medicine specialist, especially if you have other existing health conditions. Ensure that these medications are safe for you and won’t interact with any other medications you may already be taking.