Travel sickness - Medical information

Travel or motion sickness (triggered by cars, boats, trains, aeroplanes, and occasionally computer games) is caused when your brain receives mixed messages from your eyes and the balance mechanism in your inner ear. It is confused by apparently conflicting information about movement and responds with feelings of dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Travel sickness medications work by damping down the confusion in the brain.

Anti-sickness treatment works best when taken before the nausea starts, although can be taken after the onset, when it will still help to reduce nausea.

Driving caution

In some people anti-sickness treatments have the side effect of drowsiness. You should not drive or operate machinery whilst taking anti-sickness medication unless you have experience of them and know they do not affect your alertness.

Travel sickness treatments

There are a few widely used travel sickness medications: hyoscine, also known as scopolamine (Scopoderm and Kwells), promethazine (Avomine), and cinnarizine (Stugeron). Hyoscine is generally considered to be a little more effective than promethazine and cinnarizine, but it can cause more side effects. The least sedative option is cinnarizine.

How to take

Take tablets or apply patch before a journey, or at the onset of symptoms.

  • Scopoderm patches (hyoscine 1.5mg): self-adhesive patches active for 3 days (72 hours). Apply 5-6 hours before starting journey. REMOVE patch after 3 days and replace if needed for a longer time, eg. for a long sea passage.
  • Kwells tablets (hyoscine 0.3mg): 1-2 tablets 30 minutes before starting journey, repeated 6 hourly as needed. Maximum 3 tablets in 24 hours.
  • Avomine tablets (promethazine 25mg): 1 tablet at bedtime the night before travel or alternatively 1-2 hours before travel, then one every 6 hours as needed. Do not use for longer than 7 days without consulting a doctor.
  • Stugeron tablets (cinnarizine 15mg): 2 tablets 2 hours before starting journey, then one tablet every 8 hours as needed.


Anti-sickness medication may cause drowsiness. If affected do not drive or operate machinery.

Not suitable for people with glaucoma, trouble with bladder, prostate, or bowel obstruction, myasthenia gravis, people taking drugs such as tranquillisers or anti-depressants, or in pregnancy.

Avoid alcohol.

Side effects

A full list of possible side effects is found in the patient information leaflets but the most common are:

  • Scopoderm and Kwells (hyoscine) - drowsiness, dizziness, visual disturbance, changes in size of pupils, dry mouth, decreased sweating, and local skin irritation (with patch).

    Hyoscine (the active ingredient in Kwells and Scopoderm) has 'anticholinergic' effects and if taken with other 'anticholinergic' drugs there can be an increase in the risk of side effects, especially dry mouth.

    Scopoderm use has been linked in rare cases to serious and potentially life-threatening anticholinergic side effects including hyperthermia (overheating), inability to pass urine, confusion, disorientation, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, fits, and breathing difficulties. This is more likely when being used by the young or elderly, for long periods, for symptoms other than travel sickness, or in higher than recommended doses.

    See patient leaflet for more details.

  • Avomine (promethazine) - drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, headaches, nightmares, tiredness, and disorientation/confusion.
  • Stugeron (cinnarizine) - drowsiness and nausea.

Other ways to reduce travel sickness

Some forms of motion are more likely to cause travel sickness than others. More people get sea sickness than car or plane sick.

  • Sit in the front rather than back of a car if possible.
  • Driving the car or steering the boat can help in mild cases.
  • Sit near the wing of a plane or the centre of a boat.
  • Where possible sit near an open window.
  • Close your eyes, or better still try to sleep.
  • Avoid reading or looking at screens.
  • Fix the eyes on distant objects rather than nearby moving objects such as waves or other cars.
  • Avoid alcohol or heavy meals, particularly greasy or spicy food that might sit on the stomach, and avoid strong food smells.
  • Take breaks in a journey when you can if you are feeling sick.
  • Acupressure bands help some people.
  • Anti-motion sickness glasses can help the brain to readjust.

Detailed information

For more detailed information about each medication see the individual product pages and patient information leaflet links below (important if you have serious medical disorders or take regular medicine).